Following investigations by Italian prosecutors to discover what led to the death of 26 Nigerian women found on a Spanish warship in early November, post-mortem examinations on the bodies confirmed ”they almost all drowned at sea,” Italian news agencies reported Wednesday.
According to the autopsy carried out in Salerno in southern Italy, 25 of the females died of asphyxiation in the water, when the inflatable dinghy they were travelling on sank.
Reports further revealed that one female suffered a wound to her liver, two of the dead were pregnant and the autopsies found no recent trace of physical or sexual violence.
The bodies of the victims were found on Spanish military ship and brought to Italy on November 3 after two separate rescue operations. In both cases, dozens of other migrants, mostly men, were also rescued after they tried to cross to Europe from Libya.
Family members, who survived the disaster, have identified some of the victims and investigators managed to contact relatives of others after discovering phone numbers inside the victims’ clothing.
Funerals for the 26 will take place on Friday in Salerno, where a day of mourning has been declared.
A white rose will be placed on each coffin, while smaller roses will be placed for the two unborn children.
According to Italy’s interior ministry, more than 111,700 people have reached the country by sea in the first 10 months of 2017, a decrease of 30 per cent from the same period last year. The UN has said 80 per cent of young Nigerian women arriving in Italy are already in the clutches of prostitution networks, or quickly fall under their control.
The Nigerian Foreign Ministry had described the loss of the females, believed to be teenagers as “a monumental loss and a sad moment for our country” and called for an international investigation into the incident.