ROME, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Search teams worked through Friday to recover bodies from the fishing boat that sank on Thursday with around 500 African migrants on board, of whom merely more than 150 were rescued.
"Up to now, the dead ascertained are 111 but it is not a final toll because dozens of other bodies are entangled in the sunk fishing boat," Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told parliament in a report on his visit to the island.
According to local media, divers have found around 100 more bodies under the wreck of the vessel that departed from Libya to catch fire and capsize close to the Italian coast. The high seas made operations to recover bodies difficult.
About half of the asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea and Somalia, were women and there were also "many" children, according to local officials. Friday was declared a national mourning day and many businesses remained closed.
Alfano called on the rest of Europe to press for a Nobel prize for the tiny island, which is under 115 km away from Africa and has offered rescue efforts and shelter for some of the 30,000 migrants who he said arrived this year alone.
"There is no reason to think that what happened yesterday is the last time," the minister said. Thousands of African migrants have died in recent years while trying the Mediterranean crossing to Italy which most of them see as a gate to other European destinations.
Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino stressed on Friday that the European Union should not leave it up to member countries' shoulders to deal with such human dramas.
She called for a joint immigration policy and crackdown on human traffickers that contribute to such tragedies. "We hope tragedies like this open the eyes of other governments to forge an European Union policy," she said.