Rome - Rescuers feared on Thursday that the bodies of 100 more migrants may be trapped inside a boat that sank off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, but the official death toll was put at 93 in one of the deadliest such accidents.
Local doctor Pietro Bartolo said the provisional number of dead was lowered by one, from 94, as a woman who was presumed dead was later found alive. While there were 155 survivors, hundreds were still missing at sea.
"I have seen the 93 bodies, a horrific scene that I never imagined I would see. It is a scene that offends the West and Europe," Italian Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano said.
The dead included 47 women, one of who was six months pregnant, and four children, Bartolo said. "Unfortunately we don't need ambulances, but hearses," he added.
The ANSA news agency reported that more bodies had been spotted near the sunken wreckage, lying some 40 metres deep and not far from the island of Conigli, near Lampedusa.
Alfano said the migrants had lit a blanket to attract the attention of passing fishing boats, but accidentally set their own boat on fire.
They did it because "unfortunately nobody onboard had a mobile phone. If they had the chance to make a call, they would have saved themselves", the minister said, adding that the vessel capsized because scared passengers had massed together on one side.
The captain, a Tunisian, was arrested on charges of people trafficking. A Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesperson told dpa that the boat had set off from Libya and passed close to the Tunisian coastal town of Sfax on the way to Lampedusa.
The tragedy has sparked international outrage.