ROME -- Divers searching the underwater wreckage of a migrant ship that capsized last week in the Mediterranean Sea recovered another 83 bodies on Sunday, raising the death toll to 194, a figure that is likely to keep growing.
Rough seas near the Italian island of Lampedusa had delayed recovery efforts by two days; conditions were considered too dangerous for dive teams to search the wreckage on the ocean floor, about 165 feet down. But seas calmed on Sunday, and divers quickly went to work, with bodies eventually taken to a makeshift morgue on the island.
"There are no words in front of the dead," said Cécile Kyenge, Italy's integration minister, during a news conference in Lampedusa, according to The Associated Press. Ms. Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said all of Europe needed to work together to prevent future tragedies. "We must give answers to those who flee, need protection and come here for our help," she added.
The shipwreck, which happened on Thursday less than a quarter-mile from Lampedusa, is the latest grim reminder of the extreme risks taken by migrants and asylum-seekers who try to slip into Europe every year by boat. Roughly 25,000 people have died in the Mediterranean during the past 20 years, according to the International Organization for Migration.
With the trawler nearing Lampedusa, someone onboard set fire to a blanket, hoping to attract attention. Instead, the fire ignited gasoline from a broken engine. The estimated 500 migrants onboard panicked, rushing to one side of the boat, which flipped, sending people into the sea. Many were unable to swim. Others were trapped inside the hull of the 60-foot vessel.
At least 150 survivors were rescued. Among the dead were infants, children, pregnant women and others. Weather permitting, divers will return to their recovery work on Monday.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 7, 2013 2:01 PM