Migrant tragedy: Bodies wash up on tourist beach after 59 die during sea crossing

At least 59 people, including a baby and other children, have died after a wooden sailing boat carrying 150 migrants disintegrated in rough seas off the southern coast of Italy.

The bodies of some of those who died were said to have washed up on a tourist beach near Steccato di Cutro in Calabria while others were found at sea.

The boat set sail from Izmir in eastern Turkey three or four days ago carrying people from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia according to a local official. A Turkish national has been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking charges.

The bodies of the victims were being transported to a temporary mortuary on Sunday afternoon. A local official said: “It is something one would never want to see. The sea continues to return bodies. Among the victims are women and children.”

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her "deep sorrow" for the victims and pledged to stop irregular sea migration to prevent more tragedies.

"It is inhumane to exchange the lives of men, women and children for the price of the 'ticket' they paid in the false perspective of a safe journey," she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis said he was praying for survivors and others not accounted for.

"I pray for every one of them, for the missing and for the other surviving migrants," he said.