At least 43 killed as migrant boat breaks apart off Italy – National

At least 43 migrants were killed when an overcrowded wooden boat crashed into a rock off southern Italy early Sunday and broke apart, according to the Italian Southern Coast Guard. Survivors have reportedly suggested that dozens more may be missing.

“80 people have been recovered alive so far, some of whom have managed to reach shore after the wreck. Forty-three bodies have been found along the coast,” the Coast Guard said in a statement just before noon. said in a statement.

Italian state television later reported that 45 bodies covered in cloth had been taken to a sports stadium in the nearest city of Crotone.

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There were also varying estimates of the number of people on the boat when it crashed into the reef in violently turbulent waters. Some of the wreckage ended up on a stretch of coast along the Ionian coast of Calabria. There, pieces of bright blue wood, decorated with splints, were strewn across the sand like matchsticks.

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Citing survivors, state television said the boat had left Turkey five days ago with more than 200 passengers on board, according to a report from the village of Stektarto di Cutro.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said about 200 migrants had flooded the 20-meter-long boat.

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The Italian coast guard, which was coordinating the rescue, said about 120 migrants were believed to be on board.

Italian officials said rescue operations were underway on Sunday, including helicopters and police planes, as well as ships from the state’s fire department, coast guard and border police. .

A water rescue party of two firefighters struggled with gusts of wind and waves several meters (yards) high crashing onto the beach as they landed the bodies.

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A local priest said he blessed the body, which was still lying on the beach.

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One survivor was detained for questioning after he accused the survivor of being a trafficker, according to RAI state television.

In a statement issued by the prime minister’s office, Meloni expressed “deep grief at the many lives torn apart by traffickers”.

“It is inhumane to trade the lives of men, women and children for the ‘price’ of air tickets they have paid for the false prospect of safe voyage,” Meloni said. -Immigrant League Party.

She vowed to pursue a crackdown on departures arranged by smugglers and to pressure fellow European Union leaders to support the Italian quest.

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Some survivors were wrapped in blankets or quilts to try to keep warm and were transported by bus to temporary shelters.

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State television said 22 survivors were taken to hospital for treatment.

A Coast Guard motorboat rescued two men suffering from hypothermia and recovered the boy’s body in rough waters, the agency said in a statement. Fireboats, including rescue divers, recovered 28 bodies, including three who were pulled by strong currents far from the wreckage.

An 8-year-old boy and a few months old baby were among the dead, according to Italian reports.

Pope Francis lamented on Sunday that children were among the shipwreck victims.

Francis told believers in St. Peter’s Square: The pope also added that he was praying for the rescuers and “for those who welcomed” the migrants.

“This is a tremendous tragedy,” Crotone mayor Vincenzo Voce told RAI state television.

“United, the city will find a place for the dead in the cemetery,” said Voce.

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Details about the immigrants’ nationalities were not immediately provided in the report.

It was also not clear where the boats departed from, but migrant ships arriving in Calabria usually depart from the Turkish or Egyptian coast. Many of these boats, including yachts, often reach the long, remote southern coastline of Italy without the assistance of the Coast Guard or humanitarian rescue vessels.

Another sea route used by traffickers, considered one of the deadliest for migrants, crosses the central Mediterranean from the Libyan coast, allowing migrants to board inflatable boats and dilapidated wooden fishing boats. They often endure harsh conditions of detention for several months until they become prisoners.

Most migrants leaving Libya, fleeing poverty from sub-Saharan Africa and Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, rather than war or persecution, risk having their asylum applications denied by Italian authorities.

Another frequent route by trafficker ships starts off the Tunisian coast, and many of those ships arrive at the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy, or on beaches in Sardinia, often without the need for rescue.

The Meloni government has focused on complicating efforts by multiple rescue humanitarian vessels in the central Mediterranean, allocating disembarkation ports along the northern Italian coast to ensure that rescued people, often After loading hundreds of migrants onto the ship, it needs more time to return to sea. , landed safely.

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Humanitarian groups said the crackdown would also include ordering charity boats to head immediately to designated safe ports after the initial rescue effort, instead of staying at sea in hopes of conducting other rescues. Violators face stiff fines and confiscation of rescue vessels.

Opposition parties said Sunday’s tragedy was evidence of serious flaws in Italy’s immigration policy.

“It is hypocrisy to blame smugglers alone, as the centre-right is doing now,” said Laura Ferrara, MEP for the populist 5 Star movement.

“The truth is that today’s EU does not offer effective alternatives to those forced to abandon their countries of origin,” Ferrara said in a statement.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said many of the migrants risking their lives on unseaworthy boats came from Afghanistan and Iran “escaping very difficult conditions”.

Mr Mattarella called on the European Union to “finally and concretely assume responsibility for managing the phenomenon of migration, in order to rid it of traffickers”. He said the EU should support the development of a country where young people with no future in sight have decided to risk dangerous sea journeys in hopes of a better life.

For years, Italy has complained bitterly that fellow EU member states are reluctant to accept some arrivals, many of whom are looking to find families and jobs in northern Europe.

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