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Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, on Monday (February 27), in a statement said that more than two dozen of the country’s citizens were believed to be on board the migrant ship which crashed off the coast of southern Italy after it hit some rocks. This also comes as rescuers in Italy found three more bodies, earlier today, bringing the total death toll to 62 which included at least 14 children. 

The wooden vessel which is said to have left Turkey, last week sank near Steccato di Cutro, an Italian resort on the eastern coast of Calabria after it smashed into some rocks in stormy weather. According to local authorities, 80 people were rescued but dozens of passengers remain missing and feared dead. Additionally, 20 others had been hospitalised and one person was sent to intensive care, said the Italian authorities. 

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“The reports of the drowning of over two dozen Pakistanis in a boat tragedy in Italy are deeply concerning and worrisome”, said Sharif. He added, “I have directed the foreign office to ascertain facts as early as possible and take the nation into confidence.” 

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra said that the ministry had requested Italian authorities for details, as per Reuters. The boat was reportedly also carrying migrants from Iran and Afghanistan as well as other countries.

The rescue operations were underway on Monday by sea and air as two coastguard vessels continued to search the sea north to south off Steccato di Cutro while a helicopter flew overhead and a vehicle patrolled the beach, as per media reports. The boat is also reportedly said to have departed from the western Turkish port of Izmir last week and was spotted off the coast, late Saturday. 

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed “deep sorrow” for the deaths, on Sunday while blaming human traffickers as she vowed to block migrant sea departures to prevent such disasters. Notably, Italy is one of the key points where migrants try to enter Europe by the sea with many seeking to travel to other European nations. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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