Italian authorities have confirmed that 59 people died, including 12 children, after their wooden sailing boat crashed into some rocks off the southern coast of Italy on Sunday.
The vessel left from Turkey and was carrying migrants from several different countries, including Afghanistan and Iran. It sank after encountering choppy waters near resort town Steccato di Cutro.
junior interior minister Wanda Ferro told the media during a press conference that 59 is the provisional total, however this could rise.
government official Manuela Curra told Reuters that out of the 81 people who survived the sinking, 20 were taken to hospital, one of whom is in intensive care.
Curra said that survivors stated that 150-2000 people were onboard, leading to the possibility that some people may still be missing.
Patrol boats were instructed to intercept the migrant ship, however they had to abandon their plans after a severe weather warning.
ANSA news agency confirmed that a baby was found deceased on the shoreline.
“When we got to the point of the shipwreck we saw corpses floating everywhere and we rescued two men who were holding up a child. Sadly, the little one was dead,” she told ANSA.
Cutro’s mayor, Antonio Ceraso spoke emotionally about the discovery told the SkyTG24 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”.
Italian customs confirmed that one survivor was arrested on trafficking charges.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed sadness about the loss of life and placed the blame at the door of traffickers who offer “the false prospect of a safe journey”.
“The government is committed to preventing departures, and with them the unfolding of these tragedies, and will continue to do so, first of all by calling for maximum cooperation from the countries of departure and of origin,” she said.
Meloni also said that charities can encourage migrants to make the risky journey and on rare occasions can work with he traffickers.
Immigration charities furiously denied these accusations.
“Stopping, blocking and hindering the work of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) will have only one effect: the death of vulnerable people left without help,” Spanish migrant rescue charity Open Arms tweeted in reaction to the sinking.\
Meloni’s administration have made crossing into Italy more difficult, as per their new bill, ships have to request access to a port and sail to it “without delay.” They cannot linger at sea and look for more migrant boats.
Humanitarian groups said banning multiple rescues would cause ever more deaths while the UN asked Italy to withdraw the law.
“This is simply the wrong way to address this humanitarian crisis,” said Volker Türk, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: LUKE MOCHERMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: NEWS24
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