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A fishing boat carrying hundreds of migrants was torn apart on the rocky coast of Italy, casting men, women, and children into rough waters. The tragic incident has left at least 64 dead, with reports as recent as February 27 noting that bodies were still being pulled from the water.
According to CNN, the vessel launched from the Turkish city of Izmir for the 3- to 4-day voyage that would have delivered the passengers to Calabria, Italy. Reports differ on the total number of migrants who were on the boat, with CNN reporting between 140 and 150, and Vatican News citing the number as over 200.
At least 82 survivors have been accounted for, but over 20 of these required hospitalization for injuries sustained in the wreck. Among the dead, Vatican News reports, were twin toddlers and a baby only a few months old. Additionally, 14 minors remain missing and unaccounted for.
At his weekly Angelus, which took place just hours after the shipwreck, Pope Francis prayed for both the victims and survivors of the tragedy, as well as hailing the efforts of rescue personnel. The Pontiff said:
“I pray for each of them, for the missing, and for the other migrants who survived. I thank those who are helping them and those who are giving them assistance. May the Virgin Mary help these brothers and sisters.”
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, President of the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops, lamented that another migrant ship had succumbed to the treacherous Mediterranean route, which has taken the lives of more than 20,000 migrants since 2014. He wrote:
“This umpteenth tragedy,” the message continues, “in its dramatic nature, reminds us that the issue of migrants and refugees must be addressed with responsibility and humanity.”
Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni placed the blame on human traffickers, who run the routes and place passengers in danger by overloading their boats. She said:
“It is criminal to launch a boat just 20 meters long with 200 people on board in adverse weather,” she said in a statement. “It is inhumane to exchange the lives of men, women, and children for the price of a ticket under the false perspective of a safe journey.”