Search and rescue efforts continued Sunday after a makeshift wooden boat carrying more than 100 migrants crashed into rocky reefs off the southern Italian coast before dawn.
The death toll rose to at least 60 people, Italian outlet Tgr Rai Calabria reported.
The Italian Coast Guard said earlier that at least 43 migrants were killed, while at least 80 others were recovered alive.
Manuela Curra, a provincial government official, told Reuters the boat left Izmir in eastern Turkey three to four days ago with 140-150 people on board. She added that most of those who survived the crash were from Afghanistan, as well as a few from Pakistan and a couple from Somalia. The nationalities of the deceased were not immediately confirmed.
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Guardia di Finanza, customs police in Italy, said one of the survivors had been arrested on charges of migrant smuggling, according to Reuters.
Video shared by the Italian Coast Guard showed the remains of the wooden gorge, a Turkish sailing ship, washed up on the beach. Rescue boats were seen in the water off Crotone, a port city in Calabria, southern Italy, and the coast guard also shared footage of a helicopter hovering over washed-up debris searching for survivors.
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Women and children were among the dead, Cutro mayor Antonio Ceraso said, according to Reuters. He told SkyTG24 news channel that he had seen “a show you would never want to see in your life”, describing “a terrifying sight… that stays with you for a lifetime”.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the migrants were crammed into a 66-foot-long boat in “inclement weather conditions.” In a statement issued by his office, he expressed “his deep sorrow for the many human lives taken by human traffickers.”
“It is inhumane to trade the lives of men, women and children for the ‘price’ of a ticket paid by them in the false prospect of safe travel,” said Meloni, a far-right leader whose government allies include the League party. . , which prioritizes border security and the fight against illegal immigration.
He vowed to use his leadership to push for a crackdown on outings organized by people smugglers and to pressure other European Union leaders to help Italy in their search.
Meloni has supported tougher laws overseen by NGOs and charities that serve immigrants, arguing the groups encourage dangerous sea crossings. Those laws reportedly won parliamentary approval on Thursday. In a statement, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said such sea crossings offer migrants an “illusory mirage of a better life” in Europe, enriching traffickers and contributing to these tragedies, according to Reuters.
A piece of the boat, along with piles of splintered wood, littered the beach at Steccato di Cutro, part of Calabria’s coastline along the Ionian Sea. Some of the survivors tried to keep warm, wrapped in what appeared to be colored blankets or sheets.
A helicopter and motorboats were deployed in the search efforts, including boats from state firefighters, border police and the coast guard.
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A Coast Guard launch rescued two men suffering from hypothermia and recovered the body of a child in rough seas, it said in a statement. Fire boats, including rescue divers, recovered 28 bodies, including three swept by a strong current away from the wreckage.
The Italian news agency AGI said that among the bodies was that of a baby of a few months.
Pope Francis lamented Sunday that children were among the victims of the shipwreck.
“I pray for each one of them, for the disappeared and for the other migrants who survived,” Francis told worshipers in St. Peter’s Square.
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The pontiff added that he was also praying for rescuers “and for those who welcome” migrants.
“It’s a huge tragedy,” Crotone mayor Vincenzo Voce told RAI state television.
“In solidarity, the city will look for places in the cemetery” for the dead, Voce said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.