Toll in Italy shipwreck tragedy rises to 309

"There are no more bodies inside the wreckage. The search will continue in areas outside the wreckage," a coast guard official said.

Divers from Italy's coast guard, border guard, military police, navy and fire brigade have all taken part in the nightmarish underwater operation at a depth of around 50 metres (164 feet).

The search will continue around the wreckage using underwater robotic devices, as well as from the air, the coast guard official said. Italy is planning to hold a state funeral for the asylum-seekers who drowned last Thursday when their overcrowded boat caught fire, capsized and sank off the coast of the island of Lampedusa.

Only 155 survivors were rescued and an estimated 500 people -- most of them Eritreans and Somalis -- were on the boat which departed from Libya.

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