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13 die trying to reach coast of Italy

Rome, Oct 1 (IANS/EFE) At least 13 undocumented people from Eritrea died while trying to reach the beach at Sampieri in southeastern Sicily island Monday.

Their bodies were recovered from the sea by the authorities.

The vessel, an old fishing boat eight metres long, ran aground some 15 to 20 metres offshore from the coastal town of Sampieri in Modica province, after which the immigrants tried to swim to land.

At least 13 of them drowned in the rough sea with powerful waves.

Survivors said some 250 people were on the boat, 70 of whom have been transported to land. Among them were 20 children and a pregnant woman, who is in critical condition, has been hospitalised.

One of the survivors said they arrived in the morning and "the boat went aground. We never thought the water around it was so deep. The sea was very choppy. We jumped in the water and tried to reach the coast that looked very close by, but the water was too deep."

He said that "unfortunately, many of my brothers weren't able to reach the coast. We only want some help".

Meanwhile, two human traffickers who organised the crossing from North Africa to Sicily have been arrested.