Tuesday, October 01, 2013


Sampieri beach
Sampieri Google Map

It is with great sorrow that I have been following the news of a tragedy which occurred very close to home, on Sampieri beach [Scicli] yesterday. This is a beach where I have so often strolled, bathed and enjoyed myself and it is the beach which forms the background to many of the Montalbano films.

At around 10 am yesterday, some tourists and others on the beach raised the alarm when they saw a migrant boat which appeared to be in trouble.  The boat was crammed with desperate people, some of whom were already giving thanks to God because they thought they had reached safety as they were only 100 metres or so from the beach.

What the beachgoers saw next, however, defies imagination:  the boat, by this time, had run aground and the scafisti or people-traffickers were ordering the passengers to jump into the sea.  Those who were unable to swim or were frightened were clinging, literally for their lives, to anything they could reach and then, horrifically, the scafisti started to hit them with sticks and wet ropes, forcing them to jump.  The sea at that point was rougher and deeper than any of the passengers could have known and thirteen  young men did not survive.  Several newspapers, including a British one, have published pictures of the bodies on the beach and they are a sad and shocking sight indeed. 

An off-duty lifeguard and a carabiniere both plunged into the sea and rescued three people, then administered cardiac massage to save the lives of two of them. A bather who tried to help a man who turned out to be a scafisto received a punch in the face for his trouble. In all, 70 out of 150 - 200 Eritreans were brought to safety, including 20 children and a pregnant woman who was brought to hospital in Modica. She is reported to be still very unwell. One migrant who ran off to evade the authorities was hit by a car and was taken to hospital in Catania.

A survivor told the AGI news agency that the passengers had each paid €300 - €1,000 to make the journey. The scafisti had told the migrants that they would be left at Sampieri because it would be easier for them to escape from there and continue their journey towards Northern Europe, where most of them wanted to go. 

Two suspected scafisti were caught by Coast Guard and Guardia di Finanza immediately and later the "mother ship" of the boat was located by Ragusa police and Carabinieri together with the Guardia di Finanza from Modica. Seven Syrians have now been arrested in connection with the tragedy.

Five of the dead have so far been identified and the search continues for the body of another man thought to have drowned. Six other migrants were injured, one seriously. Police are also still searching for those who ran away.

President Napolitano has expressed his shock and sadness upon hearing of the tragedy and has thanked the emergency services and all who went to the aid of the migrants. Franco Susino, the Mayor of Scicli, has declared today a day of public mourning: Flags on public buildings in Scicli are flying at half-mast, schools have been giving lessons on the human tragedy unfolding daily in the Mediterranean and prayers for the dead will be said in the town this evening.  Minister for Integration CĂ©cile Kyenge said,

"The Mediterranean, the cradle of civilisation, has become a cemetery. We are witnessing a human tragedy which concerns every country in Europe."


Whispering Walls said...

How appalling!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

And another tragedy today, WW.


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