ROME, Aug. 1 (UPI) — The Italian coast guard Monday found 25 bodies in the hold of a boat transporting migrants to the Italian island of Lampedusa near Tunisia, officials said.
Pietro Bartolo, a doctor accompanying a boarding team, said the victims, all male, likely died of asphyxiation from breathing noxious motor fumes.
“They were dead for at least 48 hours,” Bartolo told Adnkronos International. “The heat and the place [where] they were packed together accelerated the bodies’ decomposition.”
Police said witness statements indicate the men tried to exit the hold as soon as the ship left Libya but could not because the deck was too crowded, ANSA reported. Officials said the vessel was traveling with 271 people, including six women and 21 children.
Police ordered that autopsies be performed.
“We’re going to carry out an autopsy on the bodies to establish exactly the cause of death, even though the first signs are that it was from asphyxiation,” Agrigento Chief Prosecutor Renato Di Natale said.
He said migrants would be questioned about a report that man was thrown overboard after an argument.