ROME (Reuters) - Five migrants were found dead on Saturday on a small boat off the coast of Libya while another 51 were rescued after the vessel sent out an SOS when its engine stopped working, according to the Italian coastguard.
The seven-metre-long boat was in Libyan waters some 137 km (85 miles) south of the Italian island of Lampedusa when it was assisted by Italian coastguards and finance police.
The survivors, 19 of whom required urgent medical assistance, were taken to Lampedusa, coastguard spokesman Massimo Maccheroni said. "We still don't know how the people died or how long the boat had been at sea."
The boat set sail from Libya and the passengers appeared to be from sub-Saharan Africa, he said, but their nationality was not known.
Thousands of migrants from Africa and Asia have died attempting to cross by sea into Italy, mainly travelling in overloaded and unsafe fishing vessels.
In 2011 a record 1,500 migrants, mainly from Somalia and other parts of Africa, died trying to reach European shores, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).