Spanish coastguards are searching for 22 people who fell out of a boat carrying migrants from north Africa.
Vessels used by the migrants are often unfit for the sea crossing
The vessel was intercepted off the coast of Almeria with 40 people aboard. A dead body was also found on the boat.
Hopes of finding any survivors are faint after so long in the water, a rescue official is quoted as saying.
Every year, thousands of people from Africa attempt the illegal and highly dangerous crossing, seeking a better life in Spain and the European Union.
Many who make it to Spain are detained and eventually deported.
The Spanish authorities have not revealed the nationalities of the people found in the boat.
The rescued migrants told the authorities 22 of their fellow passengers had fallen out of the boat in stormy seas.
"After so much time in the water, there is little chance of finding anyone alive," a source in Almeria's rescue service told the AFP news agency.
The Mediterranean sea route from North Africa to Spain is commonly used by migrants.