An Italian navy vessel succeeded in rescuing Tuesday off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa some 110 immigrants from a barge gone adrift and on which a dead body was found.

The barge, which was headed for the southern coasts of Europe, was overcrowded and had no lifesaving equipment, according to officials of the Italian navy, who gave no details about the victim's identity.

The immigrants, who variously said they were from Ghana, Mali, Togo, Gambia and Pakistan, were at first aided by the naval vessel Casiopea, and for additional support a merchant ship was diverted to the area, after which it was expected that the undocumented travelers would be taken to Porto Empedocle on the Italian island of Sicily.

The barge was found just before noon Tuesday by a helicopter on sea patrol as part of the Italian government's Operation Mare Nostrum, with which it seeks to boost surveillance and safety in the Mediterranean following some recent immigrant tragedies.

The Italian naval command ordered one of its ships to the rescue, while life jackets were tossed from the helicopter when the barge's navigational problems were observed. EFE