At least 13 undocumented men from Eritrea died Monday trying to reach the beach at Sampieri in southeastern Sicily, Italian media said.

The bodies were recovered from the sea by the authorities.

The vessel, an old fishing boat 8 meters (26 feet) long, ran aground some 15 to 20 meters (50 to 65 feet) offshore from the coastal town of Sampieri in Modica province, after which the immigrants tried to swim to land.

At least 13 of them drowned in the rough sea with powerful waves.

Survivors said some 250 people were on the boat, 70 of whom have been transported to land. Among them were 20 children and a pregnant woman who is in critical condition and has been hospitalized.

The mayor of Scicli, Franco Susino, told TV channel Skytg24 that tourists who were on the beach at Sampieri were the first to sound the alarm and provide first aid for those who came ashore.

"We saved some of them with cardiac massage. We did everything to save lives," Susino said.

One of the survivors said they arrived in the morning and "the boat went aground. We never thought the water around it was so deep. The sea was very choppy. We jumped in the water and tried to reach the coast that looked very close by, but the water was too deep."

He said that "unfortunately, many of my brothers weren't able to reach the coast. We only want some help."

Meanwhile, two human traffickers who organized the crossing from North Africa to Sicily have been arrested. EFE