The death toll from the early morning shipwreck near the Italian town of Crotone in southern Italy’s Calabria has risen to 59, the town’s mayor said.
“Until a few minutes ago, the number of confirmed victims was 59”, Vincenzo Voce told Sky news channel TG-24 at 16:00 local time (15:00 in Lisbon).
In an earlier toll, Italian rescue teams found the bodies of 45 migrants and 80 survivors from the early morning shipwreck in southern Italy, but they feared more casualties.
Rescuers said the victims included many children and women, including a newborn baby.
In a statement, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her “deep regret” over the tragedy, adding that “a 20-meter boat carrying 200 people was swept out to sea and a bad weather forecast was to blame.”
There is uncertainty about the number of victims due to differing reports from survivors of the sunken ship’s passengers.
The number of passengers reported by survivors varies from 150 to 250, said rescue team members who acknowledged difficulties communicating with the migrants because of language.
After initially mentioning Pakistanis, the Italian press said the migrants were from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.
The Coast Guard said the boat broke up on the rocks a few meters offshore when the sea was very rough.
Italian police images showed wooden wreckage strewn about a hundred meters along the beach, where many rescuers and survivors were waiting to be transferred to a reception centre.
Meloni said the government was committed to preventing the departure of boats in distress situations such as today’s and promised to continue to do so, “above all requiring greater cooperation from states of departure and origin”.
The shipwreck comes days after parliament approved controversial new rules for rescuing migrants drawn up by the far-right dominant administration.
Meloni, head of the far-right Fratelli d`Italia (FDI) party, took over as head of a coalition government in October 2022, pledging to reduce the number of migrants arriving in Italy.
The new law requires humanitarian ships to carry out only one rescue mission at a time, which critics say increases the risk of death in the central Mediterranean, considered the world’s most dangerous crossing for migrants.
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