Meanwhile, 17 die in shipwreck off Tunisia
RESCUERS have prevented 171 refugees from drowning in the central Mediterranean this weekend.
European charity SOS Mediterranee announced this afternoon that the crew aboard its rescue ship Ocean Viking had picked up 70 people from a deflating rubber boat in international waters off Libya.
“A Libyan patrol vessel arrived during the operation and approached [close to us], causing panic,” SOS Mediterranee said today.
“Eventually, all those in distress [were] safely evacuated. Among them are 17 unaccompanied minors.”
The Geo Barents, a ship operated by international medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), carried out a rescue operation on Saturday.
“101 people have been rescued around 7.30am by Geo Barents from a boat in distress north-west of Libya after an alert issued by [the emergency hotline organisation] Alarm Phone,” MSF said Saturday.
“Among the survivors, there are four young children and a pregnant woman. Everyone onboard is now safe.”
Later that day, however, the Geo Barents’s crew came upon an empty, burnt-out wooden boat floating in the sea.
Despite the Geo Barents being in the area, the crew did not receive any alerts about a boat in trouble. According to protocol, the authorities should inform all vessels to nearby distress cases.
“Smoke was still rising from the boat,” MSF said. “We fear that people were recently intercepted and taken back to Libya.”
Meanwhile, a shipwreck involving four boats carrying about 120 people in total off the coast of Tunisia claimed the lives of at least 17 people on Saturday.
The Tunisian coastguard said it had rescued 98 people. But about five people are still unaccounted for.
Top image shows the Ocean Viking’s rescuers approaching a deflating rubber boat [Pic: SOS Mediterranee]