Survivors weeping over the coffins of their loved ones in a sports hall transformed into a burning chapel: the emotion is strong on Wednesday in Crotone, in the south of Italy, three days after the deadly sinking of a migrant boat.
Family members of the survivors and the 67 victims also arrived from abroad to collect the remains.
At the same time, members of the rescue teams continue to search for the bodies of the other victims along the coast. That of a five-year-old boy was found on Wednesday morning, local authorities said.
In Crotone, weeping women are led inside the burning chapel between the rows of coffins installed on the parquet floor of PalaMilone, the sports center of this city of nearly 60,000 inhabitants located in Calabria, the heel of the Italian boot .
Some kneel and pray in silence, others cry out in despair.
After a group prayer, women and men hug and caress the coffins adorned with flowers, a man bursts into tears while touching a stuffed animal. Others, taken ill, are evacuated by members of the Italian Red Cross.
A psychologist sent by the NGO Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) was present to support them. "We accompanied the survivors of the sinking, but also many relatives who arrived from abroad - from Germany, Austria... - to identify their relatives (among the dead, editor's note) or look for them among the hospitalized people" , Mara Eliana Tunno told AFP.
"We also accompanied some of them for the last salute to the remains, with a moment of meditation and prayer. It was a very difficult moment," she said.
In front of the sports complex, members of the families of the victims recount the last messages exchanged with their relatives, who had embarked last week in Izmir in Turkey on board this overloaded boat. She was wrecked with her approximately 180 passengers in a storm just before reaching the Calabrian coast.
Mohamed Djafari, an Afghan living in Germany, told AFPTV that his 40-year-old cousin called him just before 4 a.m. Sunday morning. "She said to me: we are about to arrive, we see the beach, we see the lights", he recalls.
She then called him back saying, "please Mohamed, come and help me, I don't know what to do," he continues.
The lifeboat broke up not far from shore, possibly hitting a sandbar, plunging all passengers into the icy waters of the raging sea.
Mohamed Djafari's cousin is among the survivors, as is his ten-year-old son. Both are hospitalized.
Her 17-year-old daughter, on the other hand, lost her life, while the seven-year-old is still missing, said Mohamed Djafari. "I drove 22 hours. With the hope that the children are still alive," he breathes.
About fifteen minors are among the victims at this stage.
A fisherman who arrived on the spot shortly after the sinking described the scene to AFPTV: "There were people shouting, it was dark, I didn't understand anything". "When I turned on the torch on my mobile phone, there were dead people lying on the ground, there were also children," said Vincenzo Luciano, 50, from Steccato di Cutro.
Some 80 passengers survived, from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria, but other migrants are still missing.
This is one of the deadliest accidents to have occurred in the central Mediterranean, considered one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world but which tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers continue to use each year to trying to find a better life in Europe.
03/01/2023 20:13:33 - Crotone (Italie) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP