By Massimiliano Di Giorgio
ROME (Reuters) – At least 82 people died and scores were missing after a boat carrying migrants from Africa sank off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa on Thursday, officials and rescuers said.
The mayor of Lampedusa, Giusy Nicolini, said 82 dead bodies had been recovered, mostly Somalis and Eritreans, and the toll was rising, with the bodies being laid out on the harbor.
“It’s horrific, like a cemetery, they are still bringing them out,” she told reporters.
The coastguard said it appeared that there were between 400 and 500 migrants on the boat when it sank, and 150 had been saved so far.
Thousands of desperate migrants from Africa arrive in Italy on unsafe, overcrowded vessels every year, with most coming to Lampedusa, a tiny island just 113 kilometers (70 miles) from the coast of Tunisia.
Numbers have been boosted this year by thousands of refugees from the civil war in Syria, most of whom have arrived on the eastern coast of Sicily from Egypt.