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Death Toll From African Migrant Boat Nearly 300

  • VOA News

Italian Coast Guard personnel recover a body bag on their patrol boat in Lampedusa island, Oct. 8, 2013.

Italian Coast Guard personnel recover a body bag on their patrol boat in Lampedusa island, Oct. 8, 2013.

The death toll from last week's migrant ship accident near the Italian island of Lampedusa has risen to nearly 300.

Italian officials announced the new toll Wednesday as divers continue to recover bodies at the site of the sunken vessel.

Witnesses said as many as 500 East African migrants were on board the crowded ship when capsized and sank. Only 155 people were rescued.

On Wednesday, the European Union pledged to give Italy an additional $40 million to deal with its refugee crisis.

Lampedusa is geographically closer to Africa than it is to Italy's mainland, making the island a destination for Africans hoping to start a new life in Europe.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso announced the additional funding as he toured Lampedusa.

A small group of activists heckled Barroso as he arrived on the island. Lampedusa residents have long complained that they receive little support to cope with the thousands of migrants who come ashore each year.

On Tuesday, Italian authorities detained a Tunisian man who is believed to have been the captain of the ill-fated boat that sunk last week.

Also Tuesday, the EU proposed setting up search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean to intercept migrant boats.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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