The number of victims of the sinking of a boat with migrants off the coast of Calabria has risen to 67. Italian services found another body on Wednesday morning, a few-year-old girl. Coffins with corpses stand in the sports hall in Crotone. The place is visited by relatives of the victims and other people who want to show their mourning. An 80-year-old Italian woman living in the area proposed that the deceased children be buried in her family tomb, next to her husband. “I was thinking about what I could do for them, for these toddlers,” she explained to the journalist “Corriere della Sera”.
On Wednesday morning, the sea washed up the body of a few-year-old girl. This brings the death toll from a migrant boat disaster off the coast of Calabria to 67, Italian news agency ANSA reported. The activities of the services are ongoing. They began on Sunday, after a boat carrying refugees from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan crashed off the coast of Steccato di Cutro in the province of Crotone. Survivors report that there may have been more than 200 people on board. Dozens of them are still considered missing.
Prayers for the dead and help for the survivors
The sports hall in Crotone became a temporary funeral home. There are coffins on the floor, some labeled by name, others only by number. Local residents come there to pray, there are hundreds of candles and flowers. “May this death and your cries be a warning to hardened hearts”, “From a certain mother to other mothers” – you can read in the notes left, quoted by the correspondent of the daily “Corriere della Sera”. The hall is also visited by those who survived the catastrophe, experiencing the tragedy together.
The latter can count on the help of Italian Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders volunteers who talk to the victims. They report that many of them are children. “A 12-year-old boy from Afghanistan was left alone. He lost his entire family: four siblings, parents and three other relatives,” says Sergio di Dato of Doctors Without Borders.
“I told my husband: you won’t be alone anymore”
Information about the tragedy moved an 80-year-old woman who lives less than 10 kilometers from the crash site. “The recordings were very painful for me,” Nicoletta Parisi explained to the journalist of “Corriere della Sera”, adding that the information about the subsequent discovery of children’s bodies moved her especially.
– I was thinking about what I can do for them, for those toddlers who will no longer understand the courage of their mothers, that they ran away with them from cruelty and evil – she explained. “It reminded me of the times when I lost my uncle in the war. He died, we never recovered his body and we never gave him a funeral. I don’t want these children to suffer the same fate. I have decided that I will propose that some of these children be buried in my family tomb,” she said.
– I have already been to the cemetery and told my husband (he died two years ago – ed.): In a few days you will have guests, you will not be alone – she added. The woman has already informed the mayor of Botricello – the municipality where she lives – about her proposal.
Smugglers in custody
The Crotone Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the tragedy. On Wednesday afternoon, Italian media reported that a local court approved the arrest request for two smugglers arrested on Monday: a 50-year-old Turkish citizen and a 25-year-old Pakistani. They are accused of facilitating illegal migration and inadvertently causing a disaster that resulted in the death and injury of the victims.
The third smuggler, also detained on Monday, is 17 years old. His responsibility will be assessed by the juvenile court of Catanzaro.
There are more and more reports in the media about how migrants were supposed to be treated by smugglers. “There were up to 150 of us below deck, we sat crowded, they let us take turns leaning out to get some air” – one of the survivors is quoted by “Corriere”.
There was no rescue operation at sea
Reportedly, just before the boat began to sink, passengers urged smugglers to call the emergency services. in vain. The “captains”, seeing the lights coming from the shore, expected that police patrols were waiting for them there. “They stopped the boat, wanted to change course, land in a different place. During the next maneuvers, the waves started to rock the boat, we hit something, we started taking on water” – described one of the survivors.
The boat broke into pieces, and the accident was not known until after 4.30 am, when its remains and the injured and bodies began to reach the shore.
According to the daily “Corriere della Sera”, the Italian services had information that night about a boat approaching the shores of Calabria – around 10.30 p.m. it was reported to them by representatives of the Frontex agency, who saw the migrants from their plane. Shortly after midnight, two boats of the financial police (guardia di finanza) went to sea, but turned back because the weather conditions were too dangerous, and their boats are not designed for rescue operations, only for intercepting people. “After 2 a.m., the officers made another attempt to sail, but returned to base again. The coast guard boats were in the harbor at the time,” the Corriere article reads.
Prime Minister Meloni writes to representatives of the European Union
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called on the European Union to take immediate action in relation to migration. The head of the government informed about the letter she sent to EU institutions on Monday, the day after the disaster.
Speaking to RAI television, Meloni said: “The only way to take this issue seriously, in a humane way, is to stop the boats leaving, and in this matter we need the European Union, which, in addition to declaring its readiness, should act and quickly.”
Corriere della Sera, ANSA, PAP
Main photo source: PAP/EPA, Carmelo Imbesi