Tourists sunbathing on a beach in Scicli, Sicily, were left shocked after the bodies of 13 migrants washed ashore on Monday.
The migrants drowned after the crew of their overloaded boat forced some of its 200 passengers to disembark just metres before the shoreline.
According to Euro News, Italian coastguards were alerted to the tragic scene by onlooking tourists, but were too late to save everyone.
Speaking to the Washington Post, coastguard official Marco Di Milla said rescue boats and divers were searching the waters off Scicli, on the southern coast of Sicily, for other possible bodies.
Di Milla added that many of the migrants on board the ship swam ashore and ran away. Two people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The Mayor of Scicli, Franco Susini, confirmed tourists had raised the alarm, and said the migrants, thought to be from Eritrea, appeared to have been "treated like animals".
According to Reuters, a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees earlier this month revealed around 22,000 migrants had arrived in southern Italy by boat so far in 2013, including almost 6,000 Eritreans and 4,600 Syrians.
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