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The Italian coast guard then searches for dozens of missing migrants

MILAN (AP) — Italy’s coast guard searched by sea and air Thursday for dozens of missing people when a boat capsized and partially sank in the dangerous central Mediterranean Sea earlier this week, officials said.

The partially submerged boat was still in sight, but the search commander said there were no bodies in sight. The boat capsized about 195 kilometers (120 mi) off the coast of Calabria.

A fishing boat was the first to respond after the boat capsized on Monday, rescuing twelve people, one of whom later died. The Italian coast guard has recovered six bodies and survivors say more than 60 people are missing. Among them are more than twenty children.

According to the U.N. refugee agency and other U.N. agencies, survivors reported that the boat’s engine caught fire, causing it to capsize off the Italian coast about eight days after leaving Turkey with about 75 people from Iran, Syria and Iraq on board.

A spokeswoman for Doctors Without Borders said the survivors suffered both psychological and physical trauma and “remained very confused.”

“They have been hospitalized… and do not yet know which of their families are still alive and which have died at sea,” said Cecilia Momi, in charge of the group’s humanitarian affairs. “Whole families are being destroyed. Some lost a wife, some lost a child, a husband, a friend, a cousin.”

On Monday, the charity rescue ship Nadir separately rescued 51 people from Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh and transported them to Lampedusa. Another ten people on the same smuggler boat were found dead on the lower deck.

More than 800 people are believed to have died or disappeared across the central Mediterranean this year, an average of five deaths per day, the UN agencies said.

The International Red Cross said the tragedies are “new evidence of Europe’s failed approach to migration and asylum, which prioritizes walls and deterrence over a human welcome.”

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Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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This story has been corrected to show that 12 survivors were rescued, not 11. One of them later died.

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