6:20am

Fri October 4, 2013
World

Grim Search Resumes Off Sicily; It's Feared 300 Drowned

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 8:43 am

The news has only gotten worse about the sea disaster near Sicily, where a ship packed with about 500 African migrants caught fire and sank on Thursday.

When we first posted about the tragedy, the death toll stood at just under 100. Now, as Reuters reports:

"Italian divers searched on Friday for bodies trapped in the wreck of a boat packed with African migrants which sank off Sicily, killing an estimated 300 people in one of the worst disasters in Europe's decades-long immigration crisis.

"Rescue teams have so far recovered 111 bodies and expect to find more than 100 others in the submerged wreck, which is sunk in around 40 meters of water less than 1 km (0.6 miles) from the shore of the southern island of Lampedusa. After 155 survivors were pulled from the water on Thursday, choppy seas were expected to make the recovery work more difficult and there was no realistic hope of finding any more of the estimated 500 passengers on board the vessel still alive."

Gavin Hewitt, the BBC's Europe editor, is in Lampedusa. He writes that "500 people were crammed on board this small, 66ft-long boat. When the engine failed, there weren't any mobile phones or satellite phones to call for help." It was then, according to reports from Lampedusa, that some passengers may have set fire to a blanket in an attempt to signal for help. Tragically, the fire spread.

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