Divers hunt for Italy boat dead amid fears more than 300 drowned

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Divers hunt for Italy boat dead amid fears more than 300 drowned

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Divers have been searching the wreck of a boat which sank off southern Italy, drowning an estimated 300 African migrants.

The fishing vessel was near Lampedusa, south of Sicily, when it caught fire and capsized.

Rescue teams have recovered 111 bodies but expect to find hundreds more in the submerged wreck, which was thought to be carrying around 500 people, mainly from Eritrea and Somalia.

There is thought to be little realistic hope of adding to the 155 survivors already pulled from the water.

The tragedy unfolded when the boat started taking on water. Someone set a fire to get the attention of passing ships. But the flames spread and panicked passengers surged to one side of the vessel, causing it to capsize.

Italy’s interior minister Angelino Alfano called on the EU for more help to fight the immigration crisis.

He said: “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.”

It was one of the deadliest accidents in the perilous crossing thousands of prospective migrants make each year, seeking a new life in the EU.

Migrants who arrive in Italy are allowed to apply for asylum. Many are ordered to leave the country but slip away to Italy or elsewhere in the EU.

As recovery operations continue, Italy is holding a day of national mourning for one of the worst tragedies to happen off its coast in recent times.