ROME, July 7 (UPI) — Italy’s navy recovered 217 bodies from a migrant ship that sank off the Libyan coast in April 2015 in what was the tipping point of the Mediterranean migrant crisis.
Italian authorities said 52 autopsies have been performed so far. Hundreds more bodies are thought to be trapped in the hull of the ship. Some of the 28 people who survived the incident said up to 800 people were on board.
“This is one of the largest events of its kind, if not the largest,” said Dr. Cristina Cattaneo, the head of a team of 50 pathologists tasked with identifying the bodies. “We expect between 400 and 600 [bodies].”
The multi-level boat, a repurposed fishing trawler, capsized as it was crossing from Libya to Italy, a common route for those attempting to escape violence in Africa. Those on the top deck were able to jump to safety to a merchant vessel. Others were trapped below deck.
In the past year, 169 bodies have been recovered from areas near the sunken boat.
The incident became the cause celebre for the current migrant crisis that has seen thousands drown in the past year while trying to illegally cross to Europe.