The Italian Navy has found a wrecked ship that sank off the Libyan coast in April 2015. Only 28 individuals survived the tragedy which left about 700 others dead at sea. The bodies recovered totalled 169 and hundreds more were trapped in the hull of the ship under water. The tragedy made Europe heighten rescue operations around the Mediterranean Sea as the number of Africans illegally crossing into Europe by sea has spiked with a corresponding increase in migrant deaths.
The total number of casualties is not certain, but the Italian Navy estimated the number of corpses in the sunk ship at no less than 300. The passengers came from a variety of African nations including Nigeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, and Somalia.
The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi posted some photos of the recovery on his Facebook page and wrote:
“In April 2015, the smugglers led to the death of seven hundred people crammed into a tramp steamer , and locked in the hold . That event made an impression on all people of good will . Italy then asked the convening of an extraordinary European Council . And from there we started to change the continental policy on migrants , one step at a time .
“That ship contains stories , faces , people , not just a number of corpses. I have instructed the Navy to go to recover the wreckage to give a burial to those of our brothers , our sisters to those who otherwise would have remained forever beneath the sea . I did it because we Italians know the value of the word “civilization.” And they have been taught from the earliest days of school that the respect for burial is one of the great values of our culture.
“Give a grave to each of them means to return the right to memory. It means to warn Europe about what are the values that really matter . We continue every day to try to save lives, even today. The wreckage was recovered yesterday, fourteen months after: here are some pictures. Thanks to the Navy , proud to be Italian. We work every day because Europe is worthy of the values that have made it big.”
A total of about $10.5 million was spent on the recovery which involved robots and remotely operated underwater vehicles working at about 1,210 feet below sea level. Forensic investigators are now faced with the grim task of identifying the bodies after being extracted from the recovered ship.