LAMPEDUSA, Italy — Pairs of divers plumbed calmer seas off the Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday to recover the corpses of would-be asylum seekers who died when a fishing boat packed with 500 African migrants capsized within sight of land. By nightfall, 83 bodies had been retrieved, including one child, raising the official death toll to 194.
About 150 more are believed to still be missing, many likely trapped in the wreckage 154 feet below the surface. To date, 55 of the 194 dead were women, and five were small children.
The enormous scale of the tragedy, which could become the largest death toll in a migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean on record, has created momentum for a comprehensive European Union immigration policy to cope with the tens of thousands fleeing misery and strife in Africa and the Middle East.
“The Mediterranean cannot remain a huge cemetery under the open skies,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on French TV.
Nearly all of the 155 survivors of Thursday’s tragedy remain at the island’s refugee center. None consented to speak with reporters who visited the center Sunday.