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Italian rescue divers continue the search for bodies of African migrants off the coast of Lampedusa. Latest reports suggest at least 130 people died after their vessel capsized around a kilometre from land. According to a survivor around 500 people were on board at the time.
Rescue efforts were hampered by the fuel leaking from the boat, as one fisherman on the scene explained:
“We couldn’t pull them up because their arms were slippery. We boarded 20 people, it took us an hour to get just 20 people aboard. The others just sank to the bottom so quickly,” he said.
One of the first people to arrive on the scene, Vito Fiorino managed to save 47 people, but was clearly traumatised by the event:
“All of these people with their arms raised calling for help. It was something truly horrifying.”
The tragedy comes just four days after 13 migrants drowned off the coast of Sicily.
Thousands of migrants attempt the perilous journey between Tunisia and Lampedusa every year, and Italy is feeling the strain.
Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano wants Europe to share the responsibility.
“Europe must act. Either Europe must act or we cannot say that there is such thing as a supportive, hard-working relationship. And we want that border, the border of Lampedusa, to be considered the border of Europe, not the border of Italy,” he said.
Many of those making the journey are escaping conflict or persecution, those on board were from Eritrea and Somalia.
As recovery operations continue, Italy has declared a day of mourning for one of the worst tragedies to happen off its coast in recent times.