Toys are placed near white coffins of the victims who died in the migrant shipwreck at Crotone's Palasport in southeastern Italy | Photo: EPA/Carmelo Imbesi
Toys are placed near white coffins of the victims who died in the migrant shipwreck at Crotone's Palasport in southeastern Italy | Photo: EPA/Carmelo Imbesi

Victims continue to be recovered by search and rescue officials after the shipwreck off southeastern Italy in late February. More than 70 migrants and refugees have been confirmed dead -- including 19 children and nine teens -- and many remain missing.

A little girl believed to be less than three years old and an adult woman are among the latest victims recovered from last month's shipwreck.

They were found on Tuesday morning (March 7). Both are believed to be Afghan citizens.

With the latest recoveries, the number of people found dead after the shipwreck has risen to 72. Of them, 28 were minors -- 19 children and nine teens between the ages of 13 and 18 years old.

So far, at least 65 victims have been identified. The vast majority -- 57 people -- were Afghan nationals.

80 people survived the tragedy.

Search ongoing for missing migrants, refugees

Many remain missing. Though the exact number of passengers on the boat is not known, estimates given in various media reports range from roughly 150 to 200 migrants.

Their overcrowded boat started falling apart and sinking in rough seas off the coast of Calabria on February 26, just a few dozens of meters away from the shore. The vessel originally left from Turkey.

Since then, rescue workers, members of the Italian coast guard, police, fire department and regional civil protection unit have been working to recover the bodies of the missing victims with the help of airplanes, boats and divers and drones.

The body of the little Afghan girl was found at sea by the Coast Guard's naval unit on Tuesday.

Her body had reportedly been sighted earlier, but the wasn't recovered immediately due to a change in sea currents. Rescuers said the long time at sea has severely deteriorated her body, making it difficult to identify her.

Difficulties repatriating Afghan shipwreck victims

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday morning, Italian authorities started burying some of the victims, whose coffins have been held in a sports hall in the Italian city of Crotone.

Hamid Nizami, a young Afghan man, was buried in the city's cemetery. The burial was foreseen by Muslim ritual, following his relatives' request.

On Wednesday, relatives of shipwreck victims staged a demonstration in front of the Crotone sports hall, according to news agency Reuters, after local officials announced the coffins would be buried in a Muslim cemetery in Bologna, northern Italy.

The families reportedly called for the bodies to be repatriated to their home countries -- primarily Afghanistan. The Italian interior ministry said it would respect the family's wishes and pay for repatriations, according to Reuters.

The burial in Bologna is a temporary solution, given the political difficulties involved with organizing a flight to Afghanistan, the ministry said.

Victims from other countries were meanwhile recently repatriated: The bodies of Pakistani nationals who died in the shipwreck were sent home via plane, among them national female hockey champion Shahida Raza. The only Tunisian victim of the tragedy was also recently repatriated.


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