They were abandoned in the middle of no where. The heat of the day, the chill of the night and lots of mosquitoes followed.

They grew weary, hungry, thirsty, sick and eventually succumbed to the cold hands of death.

Fatoumi Boudou, the prefect of Niger's northern region of Bilma, told the AFP news agency that authorities on Sunday rescued 24 people who were part of a group of "70 people who had left in three vehicles from Agadez for Libya". 

Boudou said searches across a 65km radius had yielded one dead body "with the identity card of a Nigerian student".

Agadez is a remote town in Niger on the edge of the Sahara desert that has become a major people-smuggling point.

Boudou said that those rescued had spoken of several dead bodies without specifying a number.

But the Agadez-based Air Info website, citing a security source, said scores of bodies had been buried on Sunday by troops and locals.

A local radio station had said 52 dead bodies had been discovered by authorities on Sunday.

In early June, at least 44 Libya-bound migrants, including women and babies, died of thirst in the Sahara desert after their vehicle broke down in scorching conditions.