MILAN, ITALY – Exactly one year after a fishing boat crowded with smuggled migrants capsized, sinking to the Mediterranean Sea floor with some 800 people trapped inside, Italy is launching efforts to raise up the ship and bring it to a Sicilian port.
Italian naval ships were setting sail Monday evening from Sicily for the shipwreck site. There, they will determine how best to lift the wreck, which still contains bodies, from a depth of 360 meters (nearly 1,200 feet). It will then be towed to the Sicilian port of Augusta in an operation expected to take the rest of the month.
The Italian navy has already recovered 169 bodies found near the wreck, after Italy’s prime minister vowed to recover the corpses out of respect for the dead.
A memorial service was held for the victims in Catania, Sicily, at a cemetery where a monument to the victims was erected last year. Officials expressed indignation at reports, still unconfirmed, of yet another shipwreck in the Mediterranean with possibly hundreds of victims trying to reach Italy from Northern Africa.
“Exactly one year after the biggest disaster in the history of migration in the Mediterranean in the new millennium, we are experiencing an absurd replay,” Catania Mayor Enzo Bianco was quoted by the news agency ANSA as saying. “Europe and the world should not be distracted from yet another terrible tragedy.”
Two suspected smugglers, a Syrian and a Tunisian, are on trial in Sicily for the April 18, 2015, wreck, facing multiple counts of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and aiding illegal immigration.
Catania prosecutors said in a statement Monday that systems put in place after another set of tragedies — two deadly shipwrecks off the coast of Lampedusa in October 2013 — enabled the speedy identification and prosecution of the suspects.