Last Updated: Friday, 09 December 2016, 15:34 GMT

Italian rescuers call off efforts to recover bodies from migrant ship

Publisher Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Publication Date 5 October 2013
Cite as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Italian rescuers call off efforts to recover bodies from migrant ship, 5 October 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5261045812.html [accessed 11 December 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

October 05, 2013

By RFE/RL

Peope light candles in memory of the victims of Lampedusa on October 4 in Rome, a day after a boat with migrants sank killing more than a hundred people.Peope light candles in memory of the victims of Lampedusa on October 4 in Rome, a day after a boat with migrants sank killing more than a hundred people.

Italian authorities have called off an effort to recover more bodies from a ship that sank while carrying some 500 illegal migrants toward the island of Lampedusa.

Financial police officer Leonardo Ricci said on October 5 that choppy seas were preventing divers from reaching the wreck, now resting on the seabed.

Just 155 people survived the sinking, while 111 bodies have been recovered and more than 200 people are still missing.

Lampedusa fishermen, who have been active in trying to rescue the survivors, said rough seas and bad weather were also forcing them to call off their search efforts

one port worker told Reuters: "The sea is quite rough and I am not sure if the search can continue. I am not sure what will happen today, but I do know that as citizens of Lampedusa we have already done what we should have done. We did it with grace and we will continue to do it in order to help these people.

"Lampedusa is a small spot in the middle of the sea where everyone can find a place to rest. We are here for everyone, Syrians, Tunisians, Greeks and Turks we are here for that, our history tells it. "

The 20-meter boat packed with migrants sank after some aboard lit a fire to attract attention and the fire burned out of control, causing the passengers to rush to one side of the deck and thereby capsizing the vessel.

The migrants had spent two days at sea traveling from Libya.

Meanwhile, a flotilla of Italian fishermen motored into the rough seas off Lampedusa on October 5 to drop a bouquet of yellow flowers near the spot of the sunken ship.

One fisherman, who said he was the first to reach the burning and sinking vessel on October 3, recalled for reporters the shock of what he saw.

"I don't know if you know what it is like to see the sight I saw: a sea filled with people, people who called for help. You didn't need to do much to save these people," he said.

He said some survivors clung to water bottles to stay afloat for three hours and others were so slippery from being covered in gasoline that it was hard to pull them onboard.

Many fishermen fault the Italian coast guard for failing to help migrants whose ships founder on their way to Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost island.

Thousands of African economic migrants and asylum seekers make the perilous crossing each year to Lampedusa from the coast of Libya in hopes of finding new life in the European Union.

Smugglers charge thousands of dollars a head for the journey aboard overcrowded, barely seaworthy boats that lack life vests. Each year hundreds die undertaking the crossing.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters

Link to original story on RFE/RL website

Copyright notice: Copyright (c) 2007-2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036

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