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Italy’s coast guard searches for dozens of migrants missing after their ship capsized

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MILAN (AP) — Italy’s coast guard was searching by sea and from the air on Thursday for dozens of people missing when a boat capsized and partially sank earlier this week in the perilous central Mediterranean, officials said.

The partially submerged boat was still in view, but the commander of the search operation said that no bodies were in sight. The boat capsized about 195 kilometers (120 miles) off the Calabrian coast.

A fishing boat was the first to respond on Monday after the boat capsized and rescued 12 people, one of whom later died. Italy’s coast guard has recovered six bodies, and survivors say more than 60 people are missing. They include more than 20 children.

Survivors reported that the boat motor had caught fire, causing it to capsize off the Italian coast about eight days after departing from Turkey with about 75 people from Iran, Syria and Iraq on board, according to the U.N. refugee agency and other U.N. organizations.

A spokeswoman for Doctors Without Borders said that the survivors have suffered both psychological and physical trauma, and “remained very confused.”

“They have been hospitalized … and don’t yet know who in their families is alive and who died at sea,’’ said Cecilia Momi, in charge of the group’s humanitarian affairs. “Entire families are destroyed. Some lost a wife, some lost a child, a husband, a friend, a nephew.”

Separately on Monday, the charity rescue ship Nadir rescued 51 people from Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh and transported them to Lampedusa. Another 10 people on the same smugglers’ boat were found dead on the lower deck.

The deaths bring to more than 800 people who have died or went missing and are presumed dead crossing the central Mediterranean so far this year, an average of five dead a day, the U.N. agencies said.

The International Red Cross said that the tragedies are “another testament to Europe’s failing approach to migration and asylum, which prioritizes walls and deterrence over humane welcome.”

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Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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This story has been corrected to show that 12 survivors were rescued, not 11. One of them later died.

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