The Italian coastguard launched a bid to rescue more than 1,000 migrants who are stranded in the Mediterranean Sea, between Europe and North Africa.
More than 130 people have been rescued so far, but a spokesman for the coast guard in Rome told Reuters that they are certain that "more than 1,000 migrants" were at risk. The group had been travelling in dinghies off the coast of Libya in an attempt to reach Europe, before stormy weather hit them.
The rescue attempt comes after up to 300 people died on Wednesday, when boats carrying them across the Mediterranean capsized.
Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi reported that rescuers were threatened by men in a speedboat, some 50 miles off the coast of Libya who brandished rifles and took some of the empty vessels that the fleeing migrants had been rescued from.
Italy has repeatedly called for assistance in rescuing migrants, with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi saying, "The problems cannot all be left to us because we are the first, the closest, the people who pick up the boats."
Meanwhile Italy also closed its embassy in Libya, where many of the boats have originiated from, amid the “deteriorating situation” there, said Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
See more from Reuters here.