Saturday, October 5, 2013

Italy shipwreck rescuers: Now there is no hope







An Italian Coast Guard boat carries rescued migrants into the port of Lampedusa on Thursday, October 3. According to the nation's coast guard, a boat carrying as many as 500 people capsized and caught fire off the Italian island of Lampedusa.An Italian Coast Guard boat carries rescued migrants into the port of Lampedusa on Thursday, October 3. According to the nation’s coast guard, a boat carrying as many as 500 people capsized and caught fire off the Italian island of Lampedusa.







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Shipwreck off Italy’s Lampedusa island


Shipwreck off Italy’s Lampedusa island


Shipwreck off Italy’s Lampedusa island


Shipwreck off Italy’s Lampedusa island


Shipwreck off Italy’s Lampedusa island


Shipwreck off Italy’s Lampedusa island






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STORY HIGHLIGHTS



  • Rough weather prevents divers descending to wreckage on the sea bed

  • About 200 people are unaccounted for; many bodies may be entombed in the boat

  • Residents of Lampedusa hold a candlelit vigil for those killed

  • Fisherman tells how he pulled survivors and bodies from the water








Lampedusa, Italy (CNN) — Hope faded Saturday that any more survivors would be found two days after a packed migrant boat sank half a mile off the shores of Italy’s tiny Lampedusa island, with the loss of at least 111 people.


Some 155 survivors were pulled from the water after the boat capsized Thursday morning. But rescue teams now say they have given up hope of finding anyone else alive.


Italian authorities fear as many as 200 bodies may lie entombed in the vessel on the sea bed, some 47 meters (150 feet) below the surface of the Mediterranean.





Dozens dead in Italian boat accident



A diver who made it down to the wreck said that dozens of corpses were wedged inside.


Gusty winds and rough waters have for a number of hours prevented divers from reaching the wreckage to carry on the grisly recovery operation, but they are determined to carry on their efforts.


“We will continue all day and all night until we are able to bury these bodies,” Admiral Felicio Angrisano said.


Italy’s government declared Friday a day of national mourning in the wake of the shipwreck. The scale of the disaster shocked the nation and prompted Pope Francis to describe it as “a day of tears.”


Candlelit vigils were held in Lampedusa as darkness fell. Many of the island’s 6,000 or so permanent residents turned out to remember the many lives lost.


Some also expressed their anger that the island is again at the center of a tragedy involving migrants seeking a new life.


People ‘covered in gasoline’


Lampedusa, south of Sicily and the closest Italian island to Africa, has become a destination for tens of thousands of refugees seeking to enter European Union countries. And such shipwrecks, on a smaller scale, have become all too common.


Italian authorities are investigating why they were not alerted to the boat, which had engine problems, sooner — which might have allowed for more lives to be saved before it sank.


Survivors told the U.N. refugee agency that as they approached the coast of Lampedusa, the engine stopped.


The migrants hoped to be spotted, but, they told the U.N. agency, fishing boats passed by without helping, so they set fire to clothes and blankets in a bid to attract attention. The flames spread, causing panic, and the boat capsized and sank.


Lampedusa fisherman Domenico Colapinto spotted people in the water as he returned from a night at sea, he told CNN. Frantically, he pulled 20 people on board his boat — two of them dead.


“It was very difficult to get them out because they were covered in gasoline, they were nearly naked and slippery,” he said. “Then they just hugged me and said, thank you, thank you.”


The U.N. refugee agency said that all but one of the survivors were from Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa. The other was Tunisian. The boat is also believed to have been carrying migrants from Somalia.


Four children were among the dead, alongside 49 women and 58 men, coast guard spokesman Filippo Marini said.


‘Wake-up call’


Despite the dangers of taking to the sea in boats that are often barely seaworthy, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers depart North Africa’s shores every year in search of a better life.


Just under 115 kilometers (70 miles) from Tunisia, Lampedusa has been the first point of entry to Europe for more than 200,000 refugees and irregular migrants who have passed through the island since 1999.


According to the U.N. refugee agency, some 15,000 migrants and asylum-seekers reached Italy and Malta last year, while almost 500 people were reported dead or missing at sea.


In the first six months of 2013, the agency recorded 40 deaths — a figure based on interviews with survivors of the crossing — but the total for this year will be pushed up sharply by the latest deaths off Lampedusa.


U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said Friday the tragedy “should serve as a wake-up call” to the world.


The tragedy shows how important it is for refugees “to have legal channels to access territories where they can find protection,” he said.


Maurizio Albahari, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, said it was time for Europe to enact new policies rather than simply shed tears for those who died — or blame the traffickers.


“To solve the problem, it is vital to understand what it is that routinely brings thousands of migrants to trust smugglers, face exorbitant costs and risk their lives on unseaworthy vessels,” he said. “It’s quite simple. It is legally impossible for them to travel safely on planes and ferries.”


CNN’s Matthew Chance reported from Lampedusa and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London.






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Italy shipwreck rescuers: Now there is no hope


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