ROME: Fifty-nine people died, including some children, when a wooden sailing boat carrying migrants crashed against rocks on the southern Italian coast early on Sunday, authorities said.
The vessel had set sail from Turkiye several days ago with migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and several other countries, and crashed in stormy weather near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the eastern coast of Calabria.
“As of a few minutes ago, the number of confirmed victims was 59,” Crotone mayor Vincenzo Voce said, while a provincial government official, Manuela Curra, said 81 people survived, with 22 of them taken to hospital.
Curra said the vessel left Izmir in eastern Turkiye, three or four days ago, adding that survivors had said some 140 to 150 were on board. The survivors were mostly from Afghanistan, as well as a few from Pakistan and a couple from Somalia, she said, adding that identifying the nationalities of the dead was harder.
One survivor was arrested on migrant trafficking charges, the Guardia di Finanza customs police said.
His voice cracking up, Ceraso told the SKY TG24 news channel that he had seen “a spectacle that you would never want to see in your life … a gruesome sight … that stays with you for all your life”.
Wreckage from the wooden gulet, a Turkish sailing boat, was strewn across a large stretch of coast.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella said: “Many of these migrants came from Afghanistan and Iran, fleeing conditions of great hardship.”
Ignazio Mangione, an Italian Red Cross official, said a very few of the children believed to have been on the boat survived.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed “deep sorrow” for the deaths. Blaming human traffickers, she vowed to block migrant sea departures to prevent such disasters.
In a separate statement, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said it was essential to stop sea crossings that he said offer migrants the “illusory mirage of a better life” in Europe, enrich traffickers, and cause such tragedies.
Pope Francis, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina and long a vocal advocate for migrants’ rights, said he was praying for everyone caught up in the shipwreck.
Published in Dawn February 27th, 2023