A boat carrying 78 migrants including four children has drifted into Malta’s search and rescue area, according to an emergency hotline. 

In a tweet on Sunday, NGO Alarm Phone said the boat had lost engine power and had been adrift at sea for three days after having left from the Libyan coast. 

The boat is believed to be carrying some 78 migrants, including two women and four children. 

Alarm Phone said it had spoken with the Armed Forces of Malta, who reportedly confirmed spotting the boat in Malta’s SAR zone during a surveillance flight. 

Commercial cargo vessel Leo 1 has been directed to intercept the migrant boat, the NGO said. 

Questions sent to the government had not been replied to at the time of writing. 

Alarm Phone said the boat was one of several which crossed the central Mediterranean in the past days, saying that 400 people had reached Sicily on Sunday. Other boats were "intercepted", it said.

On Sunday Prime Minister Robert Abela said that if a migrant child were to drown in Maltese waters, it would weigh heavy on the conscience of the entire country. 

Malta has closed off its ports to asylum seekers, citing health concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. It is currently holding 300 migrants aboard three chartered tourist cruise boats. 

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