World

Mediterranean rescue survivors say 60 people died on trip from Libya – charity

SOS Mediterranee spotted a dinghy with 25 people on board on Wednesday.

SOS Mediterranee said the survivors were all men (Johanna de Tessieres/ SOS Mediterranee via AP)
SOS Mediterranee said the survivors were all men (Johanna de Tessieres/ SOS Mediterranee via AP) (Johanna de Tessieres/AP)

Survivors aboard a deflating rubber dinghy rescued in the central Mediterranean Sea have reported that some 60 people who departed Libya with them a week ago perished during the journey, the humanitarian rescue group SOS Mediterranee has said.

The European charity’s ship Ocean Viking spotted the dinghy with 25 people on board on Wednesday. Two were unconscious and were evacuated to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, some 60 miles to the north, by an Italian Coast Guard helicopter for treatment. The other 23 were in a serious condition, exhausted, dehydrated and with burns from fuel on board the boat.

SOS Mediterranee spokesman Francesco Creazzo said that the survivors were all men, 12 of them minors with two of those not yet teenagers. They were from Senegal, Mali and Gambia.

The survivors were from Senegal, Mali and Gambia, SOS Mediterranee said (Johanna de Tessieres/ SOS Mediterranee via AP)
The survivors were from Senegal, Mali and Gambia, SOS Mediterranee said (Johanna de Tessieres/ SOS Mediterranee via AP) (Johanna de Tessieres/AP)

Mr Creazzo said the survivors were traumatised and unable to give full accounts of what had transpired during the voyage.

Humanitarian organisations often rely on accounts of survivors when pulling together the numbers of dead and missing at sea, presumed to have died.

The UN International Organisation for Migration says 227 people have died along the perilous central Mediterranean route this year through to March 11, not counting the newly reported missing and presumed dead.

Survivors said the boat departed Zawiya in Libya with 75 people on board (Johanna de Tessieres/ SOS Mediteranee via AP)
Survivors said the boat departed Zawiya in Libya with 75 people on board (Johanna de Tessieres/ SOS Mediteranee via AP) (Johanna de Tessieres/AP)

This was out of a total 279 deaths in the Mediterranean since January 1. A total of 19,562 people arrived in Italy using that route in the period.

The survivors said the boat departed Zawiya, Libya with 75 people on board, including some women and at least one small child. The motor broke sometime after departure, and they had been adrift for more than a week.

Late on Wednesday, the Ocean Viking rescued another 113 people adrift in international waters off Libya in a wooden boat, including six women and two children, after being alerted by authorities.

Before the Ocean Viking’s arrival, a civilian sailing vessel that was the first to arrive distributed life vests to the people.

Ocean Viking has been directed by Italian authorities to the port of Ancona, in the central Marche region, Mr Creazzo said.