Rescuers looking for more survivors at sea using jet skis, but the conditions were harsh, making the search difficult.
More than 30 people have died and more than 40 rescued after a boat carrying migrants and coastal refugees sank off the Italian city of Crotone in the southern region of Calabria.
The shipwreck on Sunday took place near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the coast of Calabria, the region that forms the tip of Italy’s boot.
The death toll “has surpassed 30”, Danilo Maida, spokesman for the firefighters’ service in Calabria, told Reuters news agency, adding that the count was provisional.
Firefighters and other emergency services were looking for more survivors at sea using jet skis, but the conditions were harsh, making the search difficult, he added.
Italy’s news agency ANSA added that the search for survivors was continuing despite stormy seas.
The AGI news agency quoted a rescue worker as saying the overcrowded vessel split apart because of the violent waves. It put the number of recovered bodies at 27, including a month-old baby.
State TV said the boat was carrying more than 100 migrants and refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka when it ran into trouble at dawn in the Ionian sea.
By mid-morning, about 40 survivors had been found, said Luca Cari, a spokesperson for firefighters who were involved in rescue efforts. Some survivors made it to shore on their own.
It was not immediately clear where the boat had set out from, but vessels with migrants and refugees arriving in Calabria usually departed from Turkish or Egyptian shores.
Many of these boats reach remote stretches of Italy’s long southern coastline unaided by the coast guard or humanitarian rescue vessels.
The latest such tragedy comes just days after Italy’s hard-right government pushed through parliament a controversial new law on rescuing refugees and migrants.
The law forces rescue vessels to make just one rescue attempt at a time, which critics say risks increasing the number of drownings in the central Mediterranean.
Far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was elected last September partly on a promise to stem the flow of refugees and migrants reaching Italian shores.
In a statement on Sunday, she expressed her “deep sorrow” over the incident and “the many human lives cut short by human traffickers”.
At least 2,836 people died crossing the Central Mediterranean in 2022, a route considered the most dangerous migrant crossing in the world.