The U.S. Navy reported Saturday that two American warships had rescued nearly 300 people from boats in the Mediterranean Sea after one of the small craft began to sink.

The U.S. Navy reported Saturday that two American warships had rescued nearly 300 people from boats in the Mediterranean Sea after one of the small craft began to sink.

The amphibious assault ship Bataan and guided missile frigate Elrod responded after receiving a report from an Italian military aircraft that had sighted six small vessels, the Navy said in a statement.

The Americans provided food, water, medical care and temporary shelter before transferring 277 people to a Maltese military patrol boat. CNN reported that five others were flown to Malta for medical treatment.

It was not immediately clear who the people were. However, refugees by the tens of thousands, many from sub-Saharan Africa, have attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Italy in recent years, often in craft that are dangerously overcrowded and not seaworthy. More than 100 migrants died early last month when three boats sank in the Mediterranean.

The Italian navy reported in early May that it had picked up 4,362 migrants at sea in one week, bringing the total number transferred to Italy since October to more than 30,000 at that time.