Migrant boat breaks up off Italian coast, killing nearly 60
ROME — A wooden boat crowded with migrants smashed into rocky reefs and broke apart before dawn Sunday off the Italian coast, authorities said. Rescuers recovered nearly 60 bodies, and dozens more people were missing in the rough waters.
Officials feared the death toll could top 100 since some survivors indicated the boat had as many as 200 passengers when it set out from Turkey, United Nations refugee and migration agencies said.
At least 80 people were found alive, including some who reached the shore after the shipwreck just off Calabria’s coastline along the Ionian Sea, the Italian Coast Guard said. One of the agency’s motorboats rescued two men suffering from hypothermia and recovered the body of a boy.
As sundown approached, firefighters said 59 bodies had been found.
One man was taken into custody for questioning after fellow survivors indicated he was a trafficker, state TV said.
The boat collided with the reefs in wind-whipped seas. Three big chunks of the vessel ended up on the beach near the town of Steccato di Cutro, where splintered pieces of bright blue wood littered the sand like matchsticks.
“All of the survivors are adults,” Red Cross volunteer Ignazio Mangione said. “Unfortunately, all the children are among the missing or were found dead on the beach.” A baby and young twins were reported among the dead.
Rescuers said two men who survived were spotted trying to save children by holding them over their heads as waves buffeted them. But the children died, state TV said.
Motorboats were expected to continue searching through the night, despite worsening weather conditions.
Italian state TV quoted survivors as saying the boat set out five days ago from Turkey.
The bodies were brought to the sports stadium in the nearest city, Crotone.
Many of the survivors, wrapped in blankets and quilts, were taken by bus to a temporary shelter. State TV said 22 survivors were taken to a hospital.