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Lampedusa mourns boat-wreck victims

Italian rescuers say they plan to raise vessel amid reports from survivors that another boat failed to help them.

Last Modified: 05 Oct 2013 18:15
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Italian rescuers say they plan to raise a wreck after a tragedy in which 300 African asylum-seekers are feared dead.

The announcement came as fishermen laid a wreath at sea for the victims of the disaster off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Rough seas suspended the search on Saturday, and controversy has erupted over apparent delays in the rescue and unsanitary conditions for child survivors in a badly overcrowded refugee centre.

Thousands make the perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing each year, seeking a new life in the prosperous EU.

Lampedusa is close to the African coast 

Meanwhile, some fishermen from the island have been angered by reports that a boat may have violated the "law of the sea" and ignored migrants fighting for their lives.

"We have a legal but also a moral responsibility to recover all the bodies," Leonardo Ricci, a spokesman for rescuers on Lampedusa, said.

There are "hundreds of families that are waiting for news," he said, adding that there was a "preliminary plan" to raise the wreck.

Divers spoke of "dozens, maybe hundreds" of bodies trapped in the wreck, which lies on the seabed at a depth of around 130ft within sight of the shore of Italy's southernmost point.

Officials said more bodies may have been lost forever due to strong currents around the island.

Also on Saturday, reports that a boat did not help the stranded migrants prompted a Dutch politician to call for an investigation.

While survivors have told authorities that a boat passed, there has been no single boat identified nor have
prosecutors launched a formal investigation.

'Circled by a boat'

Pia Locatelli, an Italian politician who visited the survivors on Saturday, told the Associated Press news agency the migrants reported that a boat circled them with a light and then went away.

They also saw one or two more boats in the distance before the fire.

"They were absolutely sure in telling the boat went around their own boat," Locatelli said, adding that they said the boat had lights but they were unable to offer a further description.

Interpretations of an Italian law aimed at curbing illegal migration dissuade boat captains from helping migrants in distress, legislators have said.

The scope of the tragedy at Lampedusa - with 111 bodies recovered so far and more than 200 missing, according to survivor accounts given to UN officials - has prompted outpourings of grief and calls for a comprehensive EU immigration policy to deal with the tens of thousands fleeing poverty and strife in Africa and the Middle East.

Smugglers charge thousands of dollars a head for the journey aboard overcrowded, barely seaworthy boats that lack life vests.

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Source:
Agencies
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