ROME – Divers off southern Italy have been searching the wreck of a boat that sank yesterday Thursday drowning more than 300 African migrants.
The fishing vessel foundered less than one kilometre (half a mile) from the island of Lampedusa after it caught fire.
At least 111 bodies have now been recovered, and some 200 of those on board the 66-ft boat still unaccounted for. Dozens of bodies are thought to remain in the sunken vessel.
There were about 500 on board – most from Eritrea and Somalia, according to the UN. Rescuers saved 155.
The diving operation had to be temporarily suspended due to choppy seas, Italian media reports say.
Officials are quoted as saying some 100 bodies could remain in the wreck, which lies some 132 feet below the surface.
This raises questions about the role of smugglers. Because 500 people were crammed on board this small, 66ft-long boat. When the engine failed, there weren’t any mobile phones or satellite phones to call for help.
The passengers were left stranded, and that’s when they lit this blanket trying to a ttract attention.
That set fire to other parts of the ship. And then people surged to the side and the boat capsized.
The coast of Tunisia is seen as one of the entrance points for migrants trying to get to Europe.
The skipper of the boat, a 35-year-old Tunisian, was arrested, announced Italy’s Minister of the Interior Angelino Alfano when he visited the island.
“He had been deported from Italy in April,” Alfano said.
“This is not an Italian tragedy, this is a European tragedy,” he continued. “Lampedusa has to be considered the frontier of Europe, not the frontier of Italy.”
A minute of silence was observed in all Italian schools today in memory of the victims and flags were flown at half-mast. (BBC)