LAMPEDUSA, Italy (AP) — Italy on Tuesday detained a 35-year-old Tunisian man suspected of being the captain of a boat carrying African migrants that sank off the tiny island of Lampedusa. Divers, meanwhile, recovered dozens of additional bodies from the wreckage, raising the death toll to 275.
Just 155 migrants, most if not all from Eritrea, survived Thursday's shipwreck. Survivors said there were some 500 would-be asylum-seekers aboard when the ship capsized.
Tens of thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East try to cross the Mediterranean Sea each year, seeking a better life in Europe, but the journey is fraught with danger.
Thursday's sinking has one of the highest verified death tolls of migrant ship disasters in the Mediterranean. There have been past reports of large numbers of migrants lost, such as a boat with 300 that vanished in 2011, but most of the bodies were not recovered.
Prosecutors in Agrigento, Sicily, said they had detained the Tunisian suspect, who was transferred from Lampedusa to Argrigento under police custody aboard a ferry. He faces charges of aiding illegal immigration and multiple counts of homicide.
Coast Guard Commander Filippo Marini said 43 bodies were recovered from within the ship's hold, while one was spotted by a helicopter floating near the wreck, before the operation was suspended for darkness.