ROME (AFP) - Italian coastguards searched the Mediterranean Sea on Friday for the bodies of 73 migrants from Eritrea feared dead from hunger and thirst whilst trying to reach Europe from North Africa. They began looking for the 55 men and 17 women after five other migrants-rescued the day before off Lampedusa island-said they had perished during the voyage and that their bodies had been dumped at sea. Searches are underway, but for the moment we have recovered no bodies, an official with the Guardia de Finanza (customs) coastguard service in Lampedusa told AFP. The emaciated survivors said their small 12-metre (40-foot) boat-which set off from Libya-had been adrift without fuel for 20 days, and that they received no help from several passing vessels. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told Siclian officials to investigate the survivors claim, saying that the version of events provided by the migrants remains to be verified. Italian newspapers reported Friday that four bodies were spotted in the Mediterranean on Tuesday, and three more on Thursday, by German and Luxembourg aircraft from the EU border patrol agency Frontex. They were spotted in Libyan waters, but it was not clear if they were among the missing 73 migrants, the reports said. Last year the Italian interior ministry recorded some 36,900 arrivals of boat people, most from Libya, a 75 percent increase from the year before. Arrivals have fallen off since Tripoli and Rome signed an accord in May aimed at preventing migrants-hoping to reach Europe from other parts of Africa-from using Libya as a springboard.