'huge tragedy' | 

At least 43 people die off southern Italy after migrant ship runs aground

‘Several dead are reported among the migrants, (and) about 40 survivors’

Rescuers recover a body after a migrant boat broke apart in rough seas, at a beach near Cutro, southern Italy© AP

Alvise ArmelliniReuters

More than 43 people have died and more than 40 have survived a migrant boat shipwreck in southern Italy, the Italian coastguard said on Sunday.

The shipwreck took place near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the eastern 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 earlier told Reuters, adding that the count was provisional.

It’s believed there were around 120 on the boat and 80 people survived.

Firefighters and other emergency services were looking for more survivors at sea using jet skis, but conditions were harsh, making the search difficult, he added.

Earlier, Italian news agency ANSA reported that 27 bodies were found on the beach, and that more bodies were spotted at sea.

"It is a huge tragedy which shows the absolute need to act firmly against irregular migration channels," Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said in a statement.

It is "essential" to stop sea crossings which, offering migrants the 'illusory mirage of a better life' in Europe, enrich traffickers and "cause tragedies like today's", he added.

On their official Telegram channel, firefighters said they had recovered 28 bodies, and indicated that the migrants' ship had ran aground by the coast.

"Several dead are reported among the migrants, (and) about 40 survivors," the national firefighters' department wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding the migrants' ship had run aground by the coast.

The Adnkronos news agency said that more than 100 people were aboard the ship, while AGI, another Italian news agency, said a baby and several children were among the dead.

The vessel, bringing migrants from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, crashed against rocks during rough sea weather, Adnkronos said.

The Italian coast guard, reported to be on the scene with firefighters and other police forces, was not immediately reachable for comment.

Italy is one of the main landing points for migrants trying to enter Europe by sea. The so-called central Mediterranean route is known as one of the world's most dangerous.

According to the International Organization for Migration's Missing Migrants Project, 20,333 people have died or gone missing in the central Mediterranean since 2014.

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