Ships from Norway and Denmark picked up nearly 1,000 migrants from small boats off the coast of Libya overnight, officials said.
Svein Kvalavaag, the captain of the Norwegian Siem Pilot vessel, said on Monday he picked up 671 people from two wooden boats north of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Late Monday night, the ship was asked to take 99 more migrants who had been rescued by a Russian tanker.
Kvalavaag told a Norwegian maritime industry news site that the 770 people included 140 women, of whom three were pregnant, and 45 children. They were all taken to the southern Italian island of Sicily.
The Siem Pilot recently joined the EU's naval operation off Italy. It was originally built to supply oil platforms in the North Sea.
Jesper Jensen, a spokesman for Torm, a Denmark-based company, said its oil tanker Torm Arawa on Monday responded to call from the Italian coast guard after two boats carrying migrants were reported in distress off the coast of Libya.
He said Tuesday that the ship picked up the 222 people, gave them food, water and blankets and took them to a port in Italy's southern region of Calabria.
Jensen said he was pleased the crew had saved so many lives.
In the past months, thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have been crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italy and Greece. Some 2,000 are missing and feared dead.
European Union leaders agreed in April to boost naval search mission in the Mediterranean after a boat sank and as many as 900 migrants died off the coast of Libya.