The bodies of 59 shipwrecked migrants have washed ashore in Italy’s far south. Twelve children are among the dead. A baby of a few months old also died. A suspected human smuggler has been arrested, according to the Italian news agency Ansa.
It would be a Turkish citizen. A document belonging to another suspect was also found in the wreckage. It is unclear whether he has fled, is missing or belongs to the victims.
The boat left Izmir in Turkey three or four days ago. The ship would have been overloaded and would not have been able to withstand the rough seas. It broke in two, presumably near the beach.
More deaths are feared, Ansa reports. There is a lot of uncertainty about the number of people on board. According to the Coast Guard, there were about 120 people on board. But according to various people on board, there would have been between 140 and 150, with outliers of up to at least 250. More than 80 people survived. 22 people have been taken to hospital.
Some people on board reached the coast on their own. The migrants came from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia.
The images of the dead migrants leave a deep impression:
The bodies have washed up on the beach at Steccato di Cutro, a coastal town near the town of Crotone. Police and emergency services are on site. Patrol boats and a Coast Guard helicopter assist in the rescue effort.
Italian Prime Minister Meloni said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened” by “the many lives that have been ended by people smugglers”. She wants to work with her government to prevent deadly boat trips, including by demanding “full cooperation” from the countries where the migrants come from and from which the boats departed.
Mayor Ceraso of Cutro speaks of an unprecedented tragedy for his municipality. “The sea just keeps returning bodies. That’s something you never want to see.” Pope Francis said in his weekly address in St. Peter’s Square that he prayed for all those affected.
In the past, migrants have often washed ashore in the south of Italy trying to reach Europe via the so-called Mediterranean route. Nearly 26,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The Italian island of Lampedusa is usually the first destination of many migrants who often cross from Libya and Tunisia. At the beginning of this month, ten more bodies of migrants were taken from a fishing boat.
- Dozens of migrants missing after shipwreck off Libyan coast
- Ten migrants, including baby, dead off Italian island of Lampedusa