ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s navy said on Tuesday it had retrieved the first bodies from the wreck of a boat that sank in the Mediterranean three months ago, killing up to 800 migrants attempting to cross from Libya to Europe.
Recovery operations started on Monday, using remote-controlled vehicles and a container called a “Big Bag” in a submersible basket to haul the bodies up from the fishing boat, which is lying at a depth of about 370 meters (1,200 feet).
The disaster, believed to be the worst in decades of perilous sea-borne migration from North Africa, has shocked the European Union into expanding rescue operations.
The navy said it had pulled out eight bodies so far from the shipwreck, which happened about 135 km (85 miles) north of Libya. They were placed in a refrigerated container on board the ship Gorgona under the supervision of the Italian Red Cross.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said the wreck should be raised so “the whole world can see what happened” to the rickety boat, one of many that have carried more than 60,000 migrants to Italy so far this year.
Italy has pushed for the EU to help it manage the flow of migrants, many of whom continue to undertake the risky passage to escape war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Around 900 migrants were rescued in two operations more than 30 miles from the coast of Libya on Tuesday and transferred to the Italian ship Dattilo, a coastguard spokesman said.
The EU agreed at a summit last week to relocate 40,000 migrants over two years from Italy and Greece. It is now due to draw up criteria to decide how many each member country should take, replacing unpopular proposals for mandatory quotas.
Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Mark Trevelyan