More than 5,600 boat migrants rescued off North Africa in past three days

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ROME – At least nine people died when an overcrowded migrant boat capsized off coast of Libya and 144 were rescued, Italian coast guard said on Monday, after another heavy weekend for rescue operating off North Africa.

A spokesman for Italian coastguard said 5,629 people were rescued from 22 vessels three days between April 10-12. Vessels and aircraft from the Italian coast guard and navy as well as merchant ships and an Icelandic patrol boat assigned the European Triton border operation were involved.

Rescue were alerted on Sunday afternoon about the boat capsized some 80 miles north of the Libyan coast. Nine bodies were recovered and were being brought shore on Italian coast guard and navy vessels.

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Around 3,500 people are estimated have drowned and 170,000 reached Italy as the migrant crisis has intensified with continuing Libya, the staging point for most of the boats trying to cross to Sicily.

The number of boats carrying migrants aiming to reach the from Africa has picked up recent weeks as fine spring weather has made the passage safer. February, 300 drowned when attempting the crossing cold weather and rough seas.

At least 480 migrants died in the Mediterranean in the first three of 2015, compared with fewer 50 in the same period last year, the International Organisation for Migration said on .

Around 3,500 are estimated to have drowned last year when 170,000 migrants managed to reach Italy by sea.