Skip to main content

Survivors mourn victims of Italy shipwreck; at least 194 killed

By Matthew Chance. Livia Borghese and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
October 6, 2013 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
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.
HIDE CAPTION
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
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 83 additional victims are found, bringing the death toll to 194
  • Survivors' accounts indicate 518 people were on the boat, a lawmaker says
  • Search resumes after delays caused by rough weather
  • The coast guard defends its response time

Lampedusa, Italy (CNN) -- More than 100 wooden coffins lie in long rows in an airport hangar, each with a single rose on top. Four of the coffins are small and white, belonging to children and adorned with a teddy bear.

Hand-written on each coffin is a number, but no name.

The Italian coast guard says at least 194 people were killed in a ship disaster last week off Lampedusa, a small Mediterranean island halfway between Sicily and Tunisia.

The vessel was packed with hundreds of African migrants when it sank half a mile from the Italian island, and the coast guard says many more victims may yet be found.

Search crews found the bodies of 83 of the victims on Sunday and were still diving in the area of the wreck.

Fading hope for more survivors

There were 518 migrants on the boat when it capsized Thursday morning, Italian lawmaker Mario Marazziti said, citing survivors' accounts. Coast guard spokesman Filippo Marini said 155 people were rescued, and Italian authorities said the rest may still lie inside the vessel on the seabed, some 47 meters (154 feet) below the surface of the Mediterranean.

One diver who reached the wreck reported seeing dozens of corpses wedged in its lower deck. Gusty winds and rough waters Saturday put the recovery operation on hold, but the search operation continued when the weather cleared.

"We will continue all day and all night until we are able to bury these bodies," coast guard Adm. Felicio Angrisano said.

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

In July: Pope prays for lost refugees on Lampedusa

Survivors mourn those lost

Survivors held a private memorial service Saturday at Lampedusa's airport.

"All the men entered first, chanting a song. They were all crying silently," said Valentina Loiero, spokeswoman for Laura Boldrini, president of the Italian Parliament. Loiero attended the service.

"Then the women entered and you could see moments of unspeakable agony. A prayer was said by the local parish priest and then translated (from Tigrinya, an Eritrean language). The prayer basically said, 'Your suffering is our suffering, your tears are our tears.'"

Boldrini and a delegation of Italian lawmakers met with survivors Saturday at Lampedusa's migrant detention center, where they are being held. The cramped center was built to hold 250 people but houses more than 1,200.

Because of its location as the closest Italian island to Africa, Lampedusa is a common destination for African refugees seeking to enter European Union countries, and shipwrecks off its shores are common.

Opinion: Europe must be open to refugees fleeing persecution

An ill-fated journey

Survivors of the wreck described spending 13 days on the boat before the engine stopped just off Lampedusa's coast, according to Melissa Fleming, the chief spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency.

The migrants hoped to be spotted, but, they told the agency, fishing boats passed by without helping, so they set fire to clothes and blankets in a bid to attract attention.

The fire then spread and when many of the migrants crowded to one side, the boat capsized, said Marazziti, the Italian lawmaker.

In response to criticism, the coast guard Saturday defended its response time and said its crews were on site 20 minutes after receiving the SOS call.

"The moment we got the emergency call from the fishermen at 7 a.m. we immediately intervened and started coordinating the rescue operations," said Marini, the coast guard spokesman.

Lampedusa: Why tough penalties will not work

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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 2332 GMT (0732 HKT)
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 0613 GMT (1413 HKT)
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0154 GMT (0954 HKT)
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT