(By Bonny Apunyu)
At least 3,480 people had been rescued on Saturday as of 11 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) across the Mediterranean, the Italian Coast Guard officer said, according to BBC. According to reports, European naval ships rushed to help thousands of migrants stranded at sea. BBC quoted an Italian coast guard officer as saying about a dozen ships from several countries, along with at least one private ship, were involved in rescue operations at four locales.
U.N. Refugee Agency spokesman William Spindler reportedly said rescuers moved into action after the first distress calls came in early Saturday. "Weather and sea conditions are relatively good, and so far there have been no reports of accidents or of people dead or missing at sea," Spindler said.
BBC quoted officials as saying vessels from Italy, Great Britain, Germany and Ireland were involved in the rescues Ian Ruggier, a member of the humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station, was on one of the rescue boats. He reported about 2,400 people being rescued off five boats -- four with about 560 migrants each, plus one smaller boat -- roughly 28 nautical miles (32 miles) off the coast of Libya.
Some rescue ships turned up with rescued migrants already on board, according to Ruggier. That's what happened with one German naval vessel that picked up 301 migrants from an unreported vessel as the German ship was on the way to the larger rescue scene, a spokesman for Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command said.
The German ships went to the main site and found seven packed boats -- far more than they expected -- according to the spokesman for the command, which is part of Germany's military.
The Italian Interior Ministry reported that several of its own ships were involved, including from its coast guard and navy. The Italian rescue vessels are expected to arrive during the night at the island of Lampedusa.
BBC reported that the British Navy dispatched one of its own ships, the HMS Bulwark, to the area, according to the UK Ministry of Defence. The HMS Bulwark had two helicopters onboard moved toward the migrants at a top speed of 17 knots (20 mph), according to the ministry. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon had been on the Royal Navy vessel at some point recently, though it was unclear if he was still there Saturday.