Italy boat
Wreckage from the boat washed up on the beach in Crotone in Calabria. Image/AFP / Alessandro SERRANO

As many as 59 people, including an infant, children and women, died after the wooden boat they were travelling in broke apart off the coast of Calabria on Sunday. The migrant boat reportedly sank while trying to land near the coastal town of Crotone in Calabria. It crashed into rocks and broke apart, according to initial reports.

There were at least 150 people onboard the boat. These migrants left Turkey three or four days before the tragedy, hoping to find a better life elsewhere. However, their boat met with a horrible accident just a few metres from safety.

The boat was carrying individuals from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Iran. Most of these people were fleeing conflict. A massive search and rescue operation has been launched by Italian authorities, but bad weather has made it difficult to look for the survivors.

So far, 80 people have been rescued. According to a CNN report, all of them were found clinging to pieces of the boat. The videos that have made it to social media show timber from the wreckage washing up on the beach.

In a statement, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni blamed human traffickers for the horrific accident.

"It is criminal to launch a boat just 20 meters long with 200 people on board in adverse weather. 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," she said.

"The government is committed to preventing departures, and with them the unfolding of these tragedies, and will continue to do so," added the prime minister. The Customs Police have arrested one survivor for migrant trafficking, according to a BBC report.

This is not an isolated incident. A huge number of people cross from Africa to Italy every year to escape poverty and conflict-prone areas. Malta and Italy are some of the nearest arrival points for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea, and thousands of people take the perilous journey across the Central Mediterranean every year to make a living in these countries.

Over 20,000 people have either died or gone missing at sea in the central Mediterranean in the last 8 years. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), as many as 11,874 people have reached Italy since the beginning of this year, and 678 of these people entered via the Calabria region.