On the morning of 26 August, the MY Phoenix, jointly operated by MSF and MOAS was asked to standby as the Swedish coast guard ship, Poseidon, rescued an estimated 450 people from a wooden boat. The MOAS crew handed out life jackets and the MSF medics were asked to assist directly on board as there were many critical cases. Dr Simon Bryant and nurse Mary-Jo Frawley went into the hull of the boat, where they were literally lifting people’s heads out of the water to check if they were alive. A critical patient suffering from suspected fuel inhalation was stabilized in the MSF clinic onboard the Phoenix and medevac'ed via helicopter for further treatment on land.
At that point a second wooden boat carrying 550 people appeared and the MOAS search and rescue team immediately commenced rescued operations. More than 415 people were brought on the MY Phoenix, bringing the boat to capacity the remained 125 people were taken on board the Poseidon. Whilst this rescue was still underway, a rubber dinghy with an estimated 100 people on board arrived on the scene. The MOAS crew transferred the men, women and children on board to an Italian naval vessel, which was also on the scene.
“ The deaths of these 52 people today show that search and rescue is just a bandaid. It is merely a temporary solution to Europe’s failures, and not even a truly effective one. Despite the increase in SAR efforts since late April, the death count still keeps mounting. The only way to actually put an end to these avoidable tragedies is to create safe and legal ways for people to migrate or seek asylum in Europe. People's desperation to flee and survive forces them into taking these dangerous boats, into the hands of people who profit from their willingness to risk it all in the search of safety of Europe. Today, just like yesterday, Europe’s policy makers have blood on their hands. It is time for a change, a radical rethink and we need it now” - Will Turner – MSF Emergency Coordinator on the MY Phoenix