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Lampedusa boat survivors ‘swam for hours’

© Picture: FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-07

Eritrean migrants who survived a boat wreck off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa shared on Monday their memories of the horrific sinking, as rescuers continued to dive for bodies and the known death toll reached 211.

Survivors of a migrant boat that capsized off the coast of Italy’s southern island of Lampedusa began on Monday recounting their horrific time at sea last week as divers continued to pull bodies from the wreck.

“There was a big fire,” Issa, a young Eritrean, told FRANCE 24 outside the migrant camp on the island. “Five-hundred people, including 16 children and 85 women, all of them moved sides and we capsized.”

The captain of the boat reportedly set fire to a T-shirt to call the attention of the Italian Coast Guard. The boat sank 47 metres down into the Mediterranean Sea, with the majority of those on board feared dead.

“We were in the sea for four hours. Between 350 to 360 people were killed,” Issa said.

On Monday, divers took advantage of a break in bad weather to continue search efforts, recovering 17 more bodies. That brought the confirmed death toll from the tragedy to 211.

Coast Guard Capt. Filippo Marini estimated it would take two more days to complete the search and recovery mission. “Bodies have been recovered from outside the ship and from the ship’s cabin. Now we have to get inside the hold,” Marini told reporters on Monday.

Only 155 people are believed to have survived the sinking.

FRANCE 24’s correspondent Alexander Turnbull said several Italian ministers had visited the survivors, who hoped authorities could find a solution for them in the coming days.

The ship had arrived within sight of Lampedusa after two days of sailing from Libya. The capsizing tossed hundreds of people into the sea, many of whom could not swim.

Date created : 2013-10-07


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