7 Oct 2013

Bodies continue to be found in wreck off Lampedusa

10:38 pm on 7 October 2013

Divers have recovered 194 bodies from the Mediterranean Sea, where a ship sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa last week.

The vessel, carrying about 500 mainly Eritrean and Somali migrants, capsized and sank on Thursday, throwing hundreds into the water. Only 155 survivors were rescued

Divers have been working to bring up as many as possible from the wreck ahead of expected bad weather.

The ship is lying in such deep water that divers can spend only minutes there before having to return to the surface.

Coastguard denies delay in response

Italy's coastguard has denied that it was slow to respond to the sinking of a boat carrying African migrants off the island of Lampedusa on Thursday.

The accusations were made by a fisherman who took part in the rescue and a local newspaper.

Italian members of parliament have complained that some of its provisions discourage people from helping migrants in distress.

The fisherman who arrived first at the site of the accident, Vito Fiorino, has accused the coast guard of wasting time by filming footage of rescue efforts.

"They refused to take on board some people we'd already saved because they said protocol forbade it," he was quoted as saying by Ansa news agency.

Lampedusa, a tiny island halfway between Sicily and Tunisia, has become one of the main entry points for clandestine migrants from Africa into southern Europe, with tens of thousands arriving in unsafe and overcrowded boats over recent years.

The survivors are to be placed under investigation for "clandestine immigration", as provided for by a controversial immigration law pushed through by right-wing parties in 2002.

Italy has said it will amend immigration laws and has called for European help. France has called for an urgent meeting of EU states following the tragedy.