More than 5,000 migrants trying to reach Europe have been saved from boats in distress in the Mediterranean since May 29 and operations are in progress to rescue 500 more, European Union authorities said on May 31.
In some of the most intense Mediterranean traffic of the year, migrants who left Libya in 25 boats were picked up by ships from Italy, Britain, Malta and Belgium, assisted by planes from Iceland and Finland, the EU's border control agency Frontex said.
Naval and merchant vessels involved in rescue operations also came from countries including Germany, Ireland and Denmark.
The 17 corpses found on one of the boats arrived in the Sicilian port of Augusta aboard the Italian navy corvette Fenice. Italian prosecutors are investigating how they died.
Frontex is coordinating an EU rescue mission in the Mediterranean known as Triton, which was stepped up after around 800 migrants drowned off Libya in April in the Mediterranean's most deadly shipwreck in living memory.
"This is the biggest wave of migrants we have seen in 2015," Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said in a written statement. "The new vessels that joined operation Triton this week have already saved hundreds of people."