In another incident, 53 migrants who left Morocco on a dinghy were missing after what one survivor said was a collision in the Alboran Sea, in the western Mediterranean, according to Spanish non-governmental organisation Caminando Fronteras.
The United Nations’ Refugee Agency said in a statement it was deeply saddened by reports of an estimated 170 people dead or missing. It said it had been unable to independently verify the death toll.
Separately, the charity Sea-Watch said on Saturday it had rescued 47 people at sea, including eight unaccompanied minors, from a rubber boat in distress north of the Libyan city of Zuwara.
Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, who has closed off Italian ports to humanitarian boats since a populist government came to power in mid-2018, said the ports would remain closed to deter to human traffickers.
“The latest shipwreck is proof that if you reopen the ports more people will die,” Salvini said in a video on Facebook on Saturday.
He said 100 people had reached Italy so far this year compared with 2,000 in the same period of 2018.
Migrant arrivals to Europe in the first 16 days of 2019 totalled 4,449, almost all by sea, compared with 2,964 in the same period of 2018, IOM data showed.