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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 12:42 GMT
Migrants die on coast of Sicily
Italy police with immigrants (archive)
Italy has strict new laws against illegal immigration
The Italian authorities have found the bodies of nine migrants washed up on the south-east Sicilian coast after their boat ran aground off the shore.

It appears they drowned while trying to swim to shore near Scicli di Pozzallo, after bad weather prevented Italian rescuers reaching the stranded boat.

About 160 survivors from the boat were picked up on land but a further 30 could still be missing.

They are believed to be illegal immigrants from North Africa.

Thousands of illegal migrants try to enter Italy every year, often aboard rickety boats.

Survivors said the boat, 15 metres (49 feet) long, had been carrying about 200 people.

By the time it was reached, it was empty.

Italy had been alerted of its approach by the Maltese authorities late on Thursday, but strong winds and rough seas meant it could not be intercepted.

The nine people found dead included two women. Some survivors were taken to hospital for treatment.

"The conditions were terrible, there were very high waves," said Italian local official Michele Maltese.

"Therefore, one can imagine in what kind of conditions these people tried to reach the shore."

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