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Malta rescues 112 migrants from sinking boat

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VALLETTA (Reuters) - A group of 112 North African migrants was rescued from a sinking dinghy and landed in Malta early on Sunday, supervised by troops in special protective clothing against possible coronavirus infection, authorities said.

The dinghy was spotted in Malta’s search and rescue region north of Libya on Saturday. Those on board included several women and children. The armed forces said the nationalities of those aboard was not immediately known.

Maltese soldiers who transferred them to a patrol boat wore special suits to protect them from possible coronavirus infection. All the migrants were given a medical checkup upon landing before boarding buses to be taken to a reception center.

Malta has seen a surge of migrant arrivals this year. Some 1,500 had arrived by early March, compared to 3,400 for the full year last year.

Italy has also seen a sharp annual rise since the start of the year. But arrivals have fallen off sharply since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis in northern Italy late last month, with only 43 arrivals so far recorded in March.

Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Edmund Blair