ROME (AP) — Improved sea conditions are permitting the Italian navy to resume a complex operation to recover a sunken fishing boat with the bodies of hundreds of migrants inside.
Navy vessels are set to head Wednesday to the site of the April 2015 shipwreck, in which the immense loss of life spurred Europe to step up patrols of the Mediterranean, where Libyan-based smugglers launch overcrowded boats on risky voyages toward Italy's shores.
The boat is located 85 miles (130 kilometers) from the Libyan coastline and sank 370 meters (1,200 feet) after it capsized just as a cargo ship was coming to the migrants' rescue.
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi has vowed Italy will do everything possible to retrieve the bodies and try to identify them. Navy divers over several months already recovered 169 bodies found near the wreckage.
The navy said Tuesday a 30-meter (100-foot) -long barge will be used to bring the wreck to a port in Sicily once it is raised with the help of a specially designed robotic apparatus. Firefighters will then enter the wreck in the port to retrieve the bodies.
Survivors said as many as 800 people were trapped inside.
Forensic experts will examine the corpses, in hopes that a Europe-wide network of information will lead to identification, the navy said.
Not infrequently, families of migrants inform authorities that loved-ones never arrived after setting out in a smugglers' boat.
The bodies will be buried in cemeteries in Sicily.
Italy's coast guard has coordinated the sea rescues of more than 330,000 migrants fleeing poverty or conflicts since the start of 2014.
Thousands have perished, with some corpses found in boats along with survivors. Authorities acknowledge some boats might have sunk without anyone learning of the wreck, leaving an unknown number of dead on the Mediterranean's bottom.