Rescuers recover bodies of nine migrants from different African countries and save nine others after their boat sinks 18 km off Mahdia governorate, officials say.

Hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. (Reuters)

At least nine African migrants have drowned in a shipwreck off Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, while another nine were rescued by the navy, the Defence Ministry said.

"Navy units backed by the Coast Guard recovered the bodies of nine migrants from different African countries and rescued nine other migrants, after their boat sank 18 km ... off Chebba, Mahdia governorate," the ministry said on Monday.

It added that the health condition of the survivors is critical.

The search was still underway for more possible drowned.

People fleeing conflict, poverty

In recent months, several people have drowned off the Tunisian coast, with an increase in the frequency of attempted crossings to Europe from Tunisia and Libya towards Italy.

Hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

Source: Reuters