Italian officials say at least 59 migrants died when the wooden boat they were in began splintering apart in heavy seas Sunday off the Italian coast. At least 12 of the dead are children.
Some bodies washed ashore at a resort in the Calabria region.
At least 80 people, including those rescued by emergency workers and others who were able to swim ashore after the boat disintegrated, survived the wreck, officials said.
Photos show big chunks of the vessel on the beach near the town of Steccato di Cutro, and pieces of wood and other debris all along the shore.
“It’s an enormous tragedy,” Crotone Mayor Vincenzo said.
One of the men from the ship was taken into custody by Italian authorities on suspected trafficking charges.
Survivors estimate that between 150 to 200 people were onboard the vessel that began its journey a few days ago from Turkey. Many of the migrants were from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“The reports of the drowning of over two dozen Pakistanis in a boat tragedy in Italy are deeply concerning and worrisome,” Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Twitter. “I have directed the foreign office to ascertain facts as early as possible and take the nation into confidence,” he wrote.
Afghanistan’s de facto Taliban authorities did not immediately offer any comment on reports that Afghan nationals were also among the victims.
Pope Francis said Sunday, “I pray for each of them, for the missing and the other migrants who survived.”
Francis also said he also was praying for the rescuers “and for those who give welcome” to the migrants.
Italy has been overwhelmed with migrants who are coming from Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and other places.
Italy has asked other European Union countries to step up and take in some of the migrants, many of whom are not looking to stay in Italy, but instead are focused on traveling elsewhere in Europe to find work and/or reunite with family members.
Ayaz Gul contributed to this report.