Dozens killed as boat carrying refugees sinks off Italy

Rescuers recover a body at a beach near Cutro, southern Italy, after a migrant boat broke apart in rough seas

At least 59 people, including 12 children, have died after a boat carrying refugees sank off the Italian coastal city of Crotone in the southern region of Calabria.

The vessel had set sail from Turkey several days ago with refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and several other countries, and crashed on Sunday in stormy weather near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the eastern coast of Calabria.

By Sunday afternoon the provisional death toll stood at 59 but was expected to rise, junior interior minister Wanda Ferro told reporters.

Eighty-one people survived, with 20 hospitalised including one person in intensive care, Manuela Curra, a provincial government official, told the Reuters news agency.

One survivor was arrested on migrant trafficking charges, the Guardia di Finanza customs police said.

italy migrant shipwreck
A screengrab from a video shows police officers on the beach where bodies believed to be those of refugees were found after a shipwreck [Italian Police/Handout via Reuters]

Cutro’s mayor, Antonio Ceraso, said women and children were among the dead. The exact number of child fatalities was not yet available.

His voice cracking up, Ceraso 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”.

Curra said the vessel left Izmir in eastern Turkey 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 difficult.

“Many of these migrants came from Afghanistan and Iran, fleeing conditions of great hardship,” Italian President Sergio Mattarella said.