Migrants die in Italy shipwreck off Catania

Italian police recover a body from La Playa beach in Catania, Italy, 10 August 2013 Some of the migrants drowned because they could not swim

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The bodies of six migrants apparently killed in a shipwreck have been recovered on a beach in southern Italy.

Officials in the Sicilian port of Catania say some 100 other migrants - reportedly Syrians - have been rescued.

The migrants were thrown into the sea when the boat ran aground just 15m (50ft) from shore, but some drowned because they could not swim.

Some 7,800 illegal migrants and asylum seekers landed in Italy in the first half of this year, the UN says.

Most come from sub-Saharan African countries, particularly Somalia and Eritrea. But a large number of Syrians and Egyptians are reported to be among hundreds of people who have arrived in Italy in the past few days.

Tourist buses and ambulances

In Saturday's incident, the boat was carrying about 120 migrants; many women and 17 children were on board, reports say.

The bodies were reportedly found by employees at a beach resort nearby.

A picture released by the Italian coast guards shows coast guards puling a man as they help immigrants out of their dinghy on August 8, 2013 in the Mediterranean, off Lampedusa Thousands of illegal migrants try to make it to Europe by boat every year

The incident coincided with the arrival of three cruise ships carrying 12,500 tourists in Catania, Sicily's second biggest city. Tourist buses mingled with ambulances and rescue teams.

The nationalities of the migrants have not been confirmed but one port official speculated that many were Syrian.

Fine weather and calm seas in recent days have meant an increase in arrivals of undocumented migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

Human traffickers, who make huge profits dumping migrants on Italian shores, often abandon their passengers as soon as Italian or Maltese coastguards spot them, adds our correspondent.

The UN said almost 500 people were reported dead or missing at sea during 2012 in attempts to reach Europe.

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