Divers have resumed the search for bodies off the Italian island of Lampedusa, three days after a boat carrying hundreds of African migrants sank there.
Rough seas had hampered the operation but, in improved weather conditions on Sunday, recovery teams had found 16 bodies by lunchtime. That took the death toll to 127 but those searching know that up to 250 other bodies are still missing.
“I don’t think there will be a big problem bringing the bodies back,” said Mauro Casinghini, head of operations for the Order of Malta in Lampedusa. “They are trapped inside the wreck, so probably, during the operation, we will be able to get all the bodies that are in there.”
Antonio Fragapane, a boat owner and local resident, said he hoped that salvage crews would be able to remove the boat. “I think that at that depth – 45 metres or so they say – they will be able to do it…with air balloons, they will be able to lift it to the surface,” he said.
Amid questions over how the rescue was handled, over the fate of the 155 survivors and with calls for a crackdown on people smugglers, campaigners hope the grim reality of this tragedy won’t be forgotten.
The coffins of the dead lie inside an airport hangar on Lampedusa. A single white rose has been placed on top of almost all of them. Stuffed animals sit on the caskets of the four youngest victims.