The bodies of nine migrants were recovered Friday from a boat that arrived on Sicily's southern coast and more people were feared dead, port authorities said. There were more than 100 survivors aboard. The boat washed up before dawn near Ragusa after rescuers were unable to reach it because of bad weather, said Giuseppe Giacobbe, an official from the port authority in the Sicilian town of Catania.
It was not immediately clear how the nine died. Survivors told authorities they were from North Africa and that there had been some 200 people originally on board, Giacobbe said.
The bodies of two women were among those recovered, Giacobbe said. He said that searches were underway Friday morning to look for more survivors, despite continuing bad weather. Ten migrants were taken to a local hospital for treatment. Officials said it was not immediately clear where the 15-meter (49-foot) wooden boat had departed from.
Maltese authorities alerted their Italian counterparts late Thursday that the boat was headed for Italy, but the Italians had been unable to intercept the boat during the night because of strong winds and rough seas, Giacobbe said.
The deaths mark the latest in many cases of failed crossings between northern Africa and Italy.
Thousands of would-be immigrants attempt the journey each year, many in ill-equipped vessels. The trips are often organized by human traffickers operating in north African countries including Libya and Tunisia, who receive payment from migrants for the crossings, reports the AP. I.L.