At least 945 African migrants were saved in six separate rescue operations in the Mediterranean on Tuesday, July 12, some 17 miles of the Libyan coast while four bodies were found dead below the deck of their boat.
According to Malta-based humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), their rescue ship recovered the bodies and 400 survivors from same boat. The bodies were found in three separate compartments of the small wooden vessel. The rescued included 150 women and 20 children, the majority being Eritrean.
"People are packed so tightly in the hold," said (MOAS) photographer Mathieu Willcocks,"you wouldn't realise if someone was simply sleeping on their friend's shoulder or unconscious."
Two other men were found in critical condition. One was given CPR by a search-and-rescue crew member and an emergency doctor on board and stabilised enough to be evacuated with an Italian Navy helicopter. The other migrant was stabilised by emergency staff and is still on the Responder.
Writing about the tragedy, (MOAS) wrote:
"The scene that unfolded for our crew on the responder in the early hours of 12th July was one of the worst possible scenarios for any search and rescue crew that operates on the frontlines of the Mediterranean crisis. At 04:30 the MOAS Responder spotted this over-crowded wooden boat at 17nm off the coast of Libya. It was 03:50am when the Responder’s radar pinged, marking the first contact. Proceeding towards the echo in complete darkness, by 04:30am our crew was in sight of the boat, and instantly realised that it was heavily over-crowded, with far too many people on board for it to be safe. At 05:00am the fast rescue launch was lowered into the water and the recovery operation began. Half of the rescue was carried out in pitch black"
It was a very intense morning for all the crew on board, but they know that it could have been much worse had more time passed. One of the victims was travelling with his brother while two others had a close relative with them.
"They were just young men looking to realise their dreams, just like any of us. I am deeply saddened. My thoughts are with their close ones." said Regina Catrambone, MOAS co-founder.