Rome, Oct 10 (IANS/EFE) Over 300 deaths, including that of 83 women and nine children, have been confirmed in last week’s boat tragedy, authorities said Wednesday.
The accident had occurred when a boat carrying Somali and Eritrean migrants capsized last week off the island of Lampedusa
The current toll stands at 302 after four more bodies were recovered in the hold of the vessel that sank last Thursday a half mile from the Mediterranean island, located between Sicily and Tunisia.
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta knelt down before the bodies – placed in coffins and lined up in rows at an airport hangar – during a tribute to the victims Wednesday.
The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, and the EC’s home affairs commissioner, Cecilia MalmstrÃ¶m, joined Letta for the visit.
Some of the 155 survivors of the tragedy said the vessel was carrying 518 people when it departed from Libya’s coast, although others say dozens more were on board and that 50 additional bodies may still be found in the ship’s hold.
The boat’s engine reportedly went dead off Lampedusa’s coast after 13 days at sea, and the migrants inadvertently set it on fire in a bid to attract the attention of passing ships.
The vessel then capsized when too many migrants had moved to one end to get away from the blaze.
Barroso and Letta were met with boos and shouts of criticism from residents of Lampedusa, who accuse Italian and European authorities of leaving the island on its own to cope with a non-stop flow of illegal migrants from North Africa.