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Civilian rescuers save 247 lives in less than 48 hours in the Mediterranean

CIVILIAN rescuers saved hundreds of lives in the central Mediterranean in less than 48 hours at the weekend.

The Ocean Viking, a ship operated by European charity SOS Mediterranee and the International Federation of the Red Cross [IFRC], is now carrying 247 survivors after completing a fifth rescue operation today.

The IFRC said today that its Ocean Viking team has provided “first aid and psychosocial support” to the survivors, treated them for mild hypothermia, fuel inhalation and fuel burns, and that “some people also show signs of torture.”

Among the 247 survivors, “there are 52 unaccompanied minors and a 5-month-old baby,” the IFRC added.

The rescues began on Saturday afternoon, when the crew found 93 people, including 16 unaccompanied children, in an overcrowded wooden boat in Malta‘s search and rescue (SAR) region.

Later on Saturday night, the Ocean Viking saved another 88 people from a small wooden boat in Libya‘s SAR region. It was the activist-run distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone that had alerted her crew to the emergency.

The group first alerted the authorities to the 88 on Saturday afternoon, but no help came. They also informed a nearby merchant vessel, the Havila Borg, to the people in distress. But it didn’t help either.

“More than 9 hours after our first alarm, the [88] people are still in distress at sea,” Alarm Phone warned on Saturday night.

“After monitoring from the air, Malta’s [armed forces] ordered [the] merchant vessel that was 12 nautical miles away to NOT intervene. They could have been safe since hours!”

Fortunately, SOS Mediterranee and the IFRC did intervene.

On Sunday the Ocean Viking picked up 47 more people in two operations inside Malta’s SAR zone. This time the crew was aided by the Colibri 2, an SAR reconnaissance plane operated by French NGO Pilotes Volontaires.

“At sea, in the air or on the continent, let’s consolidate this chain of solidarity which tries to create a fairer world,” the organisation said on Sunday.

“Thank you to the whole crew for these exchanges and sharing.”

Aboard the Colibri 2 were two members of the Basque refugee rescue charity Humanitarian Maritime Rescue (SMH). Their ship, the Aita Mari, is currently on its way to the Italian island of Lampedusa, near Malta and Libya’s SAR zones.

Meanwhile, Sea-Watch announced today that it’s ship, the Sea-Watch 4, is also on its way to “the world’s deadliest border, where suffering & human rights violations happen daily.”

“Together with other civil rescue organizations, we fight against this inhumanity and support people on the move to defend their right to life and integrity,” Sea Watch said.

UPDATE: February 21, 2022

SOS Mediterranee announced yesterday that all 247 survivors had disembarked from the Ocean Viking in Pozzallo, Sicily.

Top image shows the Ocean Viking’s crew getting ready to distribute life jackets to people on an unseaworthy boat in the central Mediterranean at the weekend [Pic: SOS Mediterranee]

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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