Hundreds of people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after a boat carrying around 600 people capsized earlier today off the Libyan coast. This latest tragedy underscores the severe lack of adequate search-and-rescue operations in the area, said Doctors Without Borders/Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF).
The wooden boat capsized close to the Libyan shore. MSF’s search-and-rescue ship the Dignity I arrived at the scene soon after.
Multiple urgent rescues required
Dignity I initially received a call about the boat from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (IMRCC) around 9 am, but was diverted to carry out a rescue of another vessel. This rescue, of 94 people, was completed around 12:30 pm. The Dignity I then received another call asking for it to continue on to assist the original vessel. Dignity I soon joined an Irish boat that had arrived first at the scene to conduct rescue operations. By then the vessel had capsized. Around 300 people are believed to have survived.
“It was a horrific sight, people desperately clinging to lifebelts, boats and anything they could while fighting for their lives, amid people drowning and others who had already died,” said Juan Matías, MSF’s project coordinator on the Dignity I. “The fact that we were first called to assist this boat and then shortly afterwards sent to another one highlights the severe lack of resources available for rescue operations.”
Nearly 2,000 people have lost their lives this year
Other rescue ships continued to arrive to the area to assist, and the Dignity I provided medical treatment to 10 people; five were in such severe condition that they needed to be evacuated by helicopter. The MSF rescue ships Bourbon Argos and MY Phoenix, operated by MOAS, were also deployed.
Prior to today´s tragedy, 1,941 people are already believed to have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. MSF began its search-and-rescue operations in May, which so far have rescued more than 10,000 people.