The Italian coastguard has found the dead bodies of six migrants on a tourist beach in Sicily while nearly 100 others, thought to be Syrians and some Egyptians, were rescued during an aborted attempt to reach Europe.
“We were alerted just after 5:30 am (03:30 GMT) that a boat had run aground across from a beach resort” near the island’s second largest city Catania, said spokesman for the port authority Roberto D’Arrigo.
“Most of the migrants jumped into the water” when they saw the coastline, he said.
The bodies of two of the dead migrants were found on the beach while “four other bodies were recovered” by rescuers around the boat, as they apparently did not know how to swim and drowned, authorities said.
A three-year-old child suffering from dehydration and a pregnant woman have been hospitalised.
D’Arrigo said that all the passengers were young adults and one of the deceased was a teenager.
Most of the passengers were on the shore when authorities arrived at the scene, he said, indicating a total of “91 migrants, Syrians and Egyptians” had been saved and were currently being identified by authorities.
Investigators said the 18-metre-long (59-feet) boat was carrying around 120 people.
According to D’Arrigo, it was “totally unusual” for migrants to land on a beach in Catania as “normally they arrive further south in the region of Syracuse”, or else at the extreme southern point of Sicily or the island of Lampedusa.
Another group of about 100 migrants, mostly Syrian families, were rescued overnight on Wednesday off the coast of Calabria on the Italian mainland.
They had left Syria two weeks earlier and had to change boats several times before being left adrift aboard an 11-metre (35-foot) vessel.