UK & World News
Italy Migrant Boat Sinks Killing Over 100
More than 100 people have been killed and over 200 were missing after a boat packed with African migrants caught fire and capsized near a Sicilian island.
So far, only 151 people have been rescued from the water off Lampedusa, as emergency workers and local fishermen race to find more survivors.
But there are fears for those unaccounted for as the vessel was believed to be carrying about 500 people when it sank to a depth of around 40 metres (130ft).
Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini said some of the survivors told her they lit a small fire on their boat around half a mile from the shore to attract attention after their vessel suffered engine failure.
The fire then spread, causing panic on board which led to the 20-metre long (66ft) boat flipping over, she said.
"It's horrific, like a cemetery, they are still bringing them out," Ms Nicolini said, calling the disaster "an immense tragedy".
After 94 bodies were recovered from the surface, divers inspecting the wreck saw dozens of bodies, bringing the total number of dead to well over 100, coastguard official Floriana Segreto said.
Three children and two pregnant women were among those killed, said interior minister Angelino Alfano as Italy announced a day of mourning on Friday for the victims of the disaster.
The passengers were all believed to be Eritreans coming from Libya, the UN said.
But coastguard spokesman Marco Di Milla told reporters the boat left from Tripoli with migrants from Eritrea, Ghana and Somalia.
The bodies were being laid out on the waterfront, and officials said there were many more in the water, with about 100 people taking part in the rescue operation.
Pietro Bartolo, a doctor at Lampedusa hospital, said: "Unfortunately we don't need ambulances but hearses.
"In terms of its magnitude it's an unprecedented tragedy. In many years of work I've never seen anything quite like this."
Due to the large number, the bodies were being taken to an airport hangar.
A young Tunisian man believed to be one of the crew members has been detained, Ansa reported.
Shaken survivors wrapped in thermal blankets arrived on the dock, as an emergency worker broke down in tears.
Pope Francis visited Lampedusa in July, on his first trip outside Rome, to draw attention to the plight of refugees.
"The word disgrace comes to mind. It's a disgrace," he said of Thursday's disaster.
The Pope landed on the island at the same time as nearly 200 immigrants from Africa were being detained.
Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than it is to the Italian mainland, is the main port of entry into Europe for African migrants smuggled by boat from Libya or Tunisia.
Each year, thousands of people make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in often overcrowded vessels.
There has been an increase in the incidents off Italy in recent weeks amid an upsurge in arrivals - mainly from Eritrea, Somalia, Egypt and Syria.
On Monday, 13 Eritrean migrants drowned as they tried to swim ashore when their boat ran aground off Sicily near the city of Ragusa.
In a similar incident near Catania in another part of Sicily in August, six young Egyptian men drowned trying to reach the shore.