Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Italy shipwreck toll rises to 232 as more migrant bodies recovered

The toll of ascertained deaths in the migrant shipwreck near the Italian island of Lampedusa rose to 232 on Monday, as divers recovered another 38 bodies from under the boat that sank last week, local media reports said.

The 20-meter fishing vessel is thought to have been carrying 518 people, mostly Eritreans and Somalis, when it went down, meaning that 131 people are still missing.

Only 155 survived the disaster. The victims also included several woman and some children.

The search for missing bodies was complicated by difficult weather conditions on Monday. "When we left the boat, around 45 meters deep, we could still see several bodies piled and stiff," one of the deep-sea divers told Rai state television.


Divers have described finding a "wall of entwined bodies" when they managed to get inside the hull of a sunken migrant boat for the first time.

They had difficulty in removing the corpses because they were so close together but they managed to pull at least 38 from the crowded wreck.

Experts in deep sea diving gear have spent 30 minutes at a time at the vessel which was carrying hundreds of people when it sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Navy captain Paolo Trucco said: "They (divers) unpacked a wall of people. They were so entwined, one with the other, it is indescribable. They were so trapped they were difficult to pull out."

The drivers have also removed debris that was still floating around inside.

"Mattresses, covers, stairs. Anything that would float. Imagine if you put a house in a centrifuge and you see what winds up in the air. That is what happened," Mr Trucco said.

Some of the 155 survivors have said there were at least 500 people aboard the 18-metre-long (59ft) boat when it sank, which could mean scores more are still trapped in the hull.

The operation to recover the bodies is taking place 47 metres (154ft) below the surface after the trawler carrying African migrants went down last Thursday.

One of the divers who helped recover bodies from the sea on Sunday was Riccardo Nobile, who said he waited for more than an hour among the corpses on a recovery boat.

He said: "It was difficult to look straight at their faces, to see their wounds, see their tormented expressions, their outstretched arms. It was extremely difficult. But this is our job."

The coastguard said it would take two more days to complete the search and recovery mission.

The packed boat caught fire which triggered a panicked rush to one side of the vessel.

It capsized and, according to survivors, hundreds of people were thrown into the sea, many of whom could not swim.

Tuesday 8 October 2013



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