Photo: Migrant Boat Shipwreck
Divers on Monday recovered another 17 bodies of Eritrean and Somali migrants killed in last week’s shipwreck off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, bringing the official death toll to 211.
The first bodies to be recovered on Monday were those of two women and they were found in the bridge area of the vessel, according to Italian Coast Guard sources.
Later, divers managed to recover 15 more bodies from the hold of the boat, which rests on the seafloor at a depth of 50 meters (163 feet).
The latest recoveries come on the second consecutive day of underwater operations after two days on which the work had been halted due to bad weather and rough seas.
“They are trying to bring this very sad matter to a close as soon as possible and recover the bodies to take them to land,” coast guard commander Filippo Marini told Sky Tg24 television.
Marini said that, in addition to the divers’ activities, the search for more bodies is continuing using motorboats and aircraft, and he added that authorities intend to recover all the victims’ bodies by midnight Tuesday.
Another 165 coffins were added on Monday to the 140 that had already been delivered to Lampedusa to be used for the bodies that are being brought in to the dock at Favarolo. Once the first 140 coffins had been filled, the more recently found bodies had had to be kept in two refrigerated trucks but now they will be transferred to the new coffins.
Statements of the 155 survivors of the shipwreck indicate that the vessel, which departed from North Africa headed for the coast of a European country, was carrying 518 people, and thus about 150 bodies have not yet been recovered.
The boat’s engine broke down near Lampedusa and the passengers fired off flares to attract passing ships, but the flames ignited gasoline on the deck and started a fire.
Migrants rushing to one side of the vessel to escape the flames caused the boat to capsize.