Storm puts off search for bodies

Italian emergency services hope to resume the search for bodies despite rough seas after a Mediterranean shipwreck in which 111 asylum-seekers are confirmed dead and around 200 more are missing.

The search for bodies off the island of Lampedusa has been suspended because of bad weather. An emotional Pope Francis said it was "a day of tears" in a "savage world" that ignored refugees.

The Government asked Europe to help stem the influx of migrants, as the country mourned the dead.

Islanders in the tiny fishing community held a Mass and a silent torch-lit procession, as flags across Italy flew at half mast on Friday and schools marked a minute of silence.

Emergency services on the remote island - Italy's southernmost point - said they had recovered 111 bodies so far and rescued 155 survivors from a boat with up to 500 people on board.

"There is horror down there. Dozens of corpses, maybe hundreds," said Rocco Canell, who runs a local diving school and went down before the search was halted, told the Italian news agency ANSA.

"They are all on top of another, piled up, wedged," he said after descending to the ghostly wreck, which lies on the seabed at a depth of around 40m.

The migrants, almost all Eritreans, left from Misrata in Libya.

- AAP

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