Naval Service personnel have rescued 12 men drifting in the Mediterranean in a boat with no fuel or drinking water.
The African migrants, who were trying to make their way from Libya to Italy, had been at sea in their fibreglass 6m boat since setting out from Tripoli five days ago.
The rescue brings to 649 migrants taken from vessels in the area by the crew of the LÉ Eithne since it departed Cork 19 days ago.
The deployment of the ship and its 67-strong crew represents Ireland’s contribution to assisting Italy cope with the humanitarian disaster unfolding off its shores.
The Defence Forces said the 12 men rescued on Thursday morning had been taken on board the Irish vessel as they drifted in distress some 50km north of the island of Lampedusa.
The Irish were first alerted to difficulties on the vessel as they left Palermo last night to begin another tour of duty.
The message was relayed by the Irish search-and-rescue service.
The crew of the LÉ Eithne and other vessels in the area were tasked with searching for the vessel at 8am local time it was spotted by the Irish off Lampedusa, the largest of the Italian Pelagie Islands.
A rescue effort was launched by the Irish and then 12 men adrift and in distress, without water in very warm conditions, were brought onto the Irish ship.
“The vessel, a fibreglass-hulled boat, with a single outboard engine, approximately 6m in length, had departed Tripoli five days ago and was found with no fuel, food or water on board,” a Defence Forces spokesman said.
“The 12 occupants, all male, were badly dehydrated and are being cared for by the Navy and Army medical staff on board.”
The migrants were due to be transported on to a larger vessel in the area and taken into the care of the Italian authorities for processing into the country.
The LÉ Eithne will remain on standby in the Mediterranean for up to six months as part of the international community's efforts to assist Italy in rescuing migrants attempting to sale there from North Africa.