Italian rescuers were battling with rough seas on Friday as they continued searching for hundreds of missing persons from one of the worst migrant boat disasters in recent years, while the provisional death toll stood at 111.
Waves made it difficult for scuba divers to reach the wreck of the ship which sank early on Thursday near the Southern Italian island of Lampedusa, ANSA news agency said. It was thought to be carrying around 500 people from Somalia and Eritrea.
“It is like a horror movie, there is a mass of bodies trapped down there,” said Rocco Canell, the first diver who managed to get close to the vessel, lying at a depth of 47 meters.
The dead included a pregnant woman and several children, while there were 155 survivors. Bodies were being amassed in an airport hangar, while coffins were being hauled in from mainland Sicily.
A national day of mourning was being observed in Italy, with flags flying at half mast from official buildings and a minute of silence being observed in schools. In Lampedusa, where most shops were closed, a ceremony was due to take place at 6 pm.
“Today is a day of weeping,” Pope Francis said during a visit to Assisi, the hometown of his namesake saint.