Migrants disembark at the port of Crotone, August 26, 2020 | Photo: ANSA / GIUSEPPE PIPITA
Migrants disembark at the port of Crotone, August 26, 2020 | Photo: ANSA / GIUSEPPE PIPITA

Italian finance police officer Maurizio Giunta was at the stern of a sailboat with 20 migrants aboard on Sunday morning off the coast of Calabria, when there was an explosion on board. "I had a broken leg, but I wanted to save those people who were afraid to jump in the water because they didn't know how to swim," Giunta said.

Although he had a broken leg and the boat he was on was going up in flames, Italian finance police officer Maurizio Giunta wasn't thinking about fear but rather a sense of duty when he threw migrants overboard who were at risk of dying on the ship. 

Giunta is one of two officers who were wounded on Sunday when an explosion took place on a sailboat on which about 20 migrants were travelling. One of the migrants is now missing, although the exact number of migrants who were aboard the boat is unknown, and search operations resumed at sunrise. 

Giunta is now able to tell the story of his experience from his hospital bed in Crotone, where he is recovering next to his colleague Giovanni Antonio Frisella. 

"Fear? At that moment, I didn't feel it. I'm thinking about it now. We aren't heroes. We carry out our duty to the best of our ability. That's why I can't wait to get back to work," Giunta said. 

Also read: At least four migrants die as boat catches fire off Italy

The tale of the tragedy 

Going back to those moments, Giunta tells what happened. "The engine or something under my legs exploded," he said. "My colleague ended up in the water and I remained aboard." 

The boat was in flames, he said. "Despite my broken leg, my thought was to throw as many people as possible into the people," even though "many of them didn't know how to swim and were afraid. Together with other colleagues, we worked to save as many lives as possible. They jumped in the water while I stayed on the boat in flames. After the second explosion, we all ended up in the water," he added. 

Giunta's colleague Frisella was also in the water, and, despite a broken foot, he moved towards a migrant who didn't know how to swim. "I got him, and I called Marshal Novelli who was aboard the patrol boat and he immediately jumped in the water to give me a hand because I couldn't do it," Frisella said. 

The prefect of Crotone, Tiziana Tombesi, visited Giunta and Frisella in the hospital. "They showed courage and self-sacrifice, which distinguishes those who work in this field," she said. 

Meanwhile, identification is underway for the three victims of the explosion, two men and a woman. Two wounded migrants are in very serious condition. One was transferred on Sunday evening to the burn unit at Brindisi's Perrino Hospital. 

More arrivals between Sunday and Monday 

The Catholic Diocese of Crotone said the explosion is a tragedy that "profoundly shakes our consciences as men and as believers." It condemned the "air of hate and indifference that one breathes on social media" and complimented the two wounded officers and "all men and women of the State, volunteer associations, medical personnel and paramedics, for the dedication with which they are working in rescuing survivors and searching for the missing."

Meanwhile, the migrant flow isn't slowing. On Sunday, 48 people, including three women and five children, were intercepted in Caulonia, in the province of Reggio Calabria. 

On Monday morning another sailboat was intercepted by finance police and reached the port of Crotone with 66 people aboard. There were 15 women and 18 minors, including many small children and a newborn.

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