A container ship and a commuter hydrofoil collided near the entrance to the Sicilian port of Messina, killing four crew members on the hydrofoil, and injuring dozens of passengers, police and port officials said early Tuesday.

Messina police headquarters' operations room said the captain and three other crew members were found dead in the wreckage of the hydrofoil, which was nearly pierced in two on its right side by the collision shortly after twilight Monday evening with the much larger cargo vessel.

Hours later, firefighters were trying to extract the last two bodies from the wreckage, working gingerly, police said, because of fears any false move might cause the stricken hydrofoil to sink.

Calabria, the "toe" of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula, is linked to the island of Sicily by air and sea routes.

The collision occurred about 6 p.m. (1700 GMT) when many commuters were returning home from jobs on the mainland.

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