PALERMO, Italy: At least 13 people on a migrant boat arriving in Sicily drowned close to the coast near the eastern city of Ragusa, apparently after trying to disembark from their stranded vessel, Italian authorities said Monday.
Television pictures showed the bodies, all adult men, wrapped in white sheets lying on the beach at Sampieri, on the southeastern coast of Sicily.
Officials said they drowned while the boat floated meters from shore.
Thousands of migrants have arrived in packed boats in southern Italy during the summer sailing season this year, with refugees from the civil war in Syria adding to the near daily arrivals of boats from North Africa.
Most arrive to the tiny island of Lampedusa off the southern coast, but thousands have also arrived to Sicily. Dozens have died making the voyage.
Last month, six migrants coming from Africa drowned after their boat ran aground some 40 meters from a beach near the eastern city of Catania.
“Too often in recent times the southeastern coast of Sicily has been the destination of these journeys,” Ragusa police chief Annunziato Varde said. “We do everything we can and mobilize all our resources to limit the damage, like today, we tried to rescue as many as we could.”
Police arrested two men suspected of being people smugglers.