Italy shipwreck: Divers recover bodies of 16 more migrants

Coffins of migrants were lined up inside an hangar of Lampedusa's airport

Updated - November 16, 2021 07:48 pm IST

Published - October 06, 2013 04:16 pm IST - LAMPEDUSA, Italy

A Coast Guard boat maneuvers past a buoy marking the exact point of the sunken ship which was carrying African migrants towards Italy and capsized on Thursday off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy on Saturday.

A Coast Guard boat maneuvers past a buoy marking the exact point of the sunken ship which was carrying African migrants towards Italy and capsized on Thursday off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy on Saturday.

Authorities say divers have recovered another 16 bodies from a fiery shipwreck of a fishing boat packed with 500 migrants from Eritrea.

Rescuers told the LaPresse news agency that bodies were recovered after divers resumed their search on Sunday morning. They were brought to shore and placed onto trucks to be taken to the makeshift morgue at the airport.

Financial police Maj. Leonardo Ricci said the search and recovery would continue "as long as the sea is calm and there is light".

The search had been suspended for the last two days due to rough seas. There are 155 survivors, and over 200 people remain missing. Authorities have so far recovered 127 bodies.

Migrant coffins lined up in Italian airport hangar

The coffins of African migrants were lined up in long rows inside an airport hangar where survivors of the tragedy have paid their respects. All of the caskets had a single rose on top except for the four of the youngest victims, which had stuffed animals.

The 111 coffins were numbered, a teddy bear wearing a smile and a blue shirt with a heart was placed above casket No 92.

The ceremony took place hours after Italian fishermen threw a bouquet of yellow flowers near the exact spot where the migrant boat sank, honking their foghorns in tribute to the dead and up to 250 migrants who may still be missing.

A parliamentary delegation visited the survivors amid reports that a boat may have violated the “law of the sea” by failing to help the migrant ship packed with 500 migrants, nearly all from Eritrea, about 600 metres (650 yards) from shore.

“To come to rescue is a duty. Not to come to rescue is a crime,” Laura Boldrini, the Italian house speaker who previously and for many years was the U.N. Refugee Agency spokeswoman in Italy, told reporters in Lampedusa after visiting the survivors.

The 20-metre (65-foot) migrant boat sank on Thursday after a fire was set onboard to attract attention of any passing boats or people on shore when they ran into trouble. They had travelled for two full days and thought they had reached safety when they saw the lights of Lampedusa.

Instead, at least 111 drowned and 155 survived, some of whom were in the water for three hours, clinging to anything buoyant, even empty water bottles.

Boat captains in Italian waters have been dissuaded in the past from helping migrants in distress because they fear prosecution under an Italian law aimed at curbing illegal migration. But Ms. Boldrini said the law of the sea requires assistance to be given to anyone in need.

Reports that a boat didn’t help the stranded migrants prompted a Dutch lawmaker to call for an investigation. While survivors have told authorities that a boat passed, there has been no single vessel identified nor have prosecutors launched a formal investigation.

Italian lawmaker Pia Locatelli, part of the delegation, told The Associated Press the migrants reported that a boat circled them with a light and then went away. They also saw one or perhaps two more boats in the distance before the fire.

“They were absolutely sure in telling the boat went around their own boat,” lawmaker Locatelli said, but they were unable to offer a further description.

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