New York, January 28, 2018—In a nightmarish day on the Mediterranean Sea yesterday, 99 survivors from a sinking rubber boat were rescued by the Aquarius, a search and rescue vessel run by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and SOS MEDITERRANEE. An unknown number of men, women, and children are missing and presumed drowned. Two women are confirmed dead.
“The scene was devastating, with many urgent medical cases in quick succession,” said MSF nurse Aoife Ni Mhurchu. “They just kept coming, one after another, unconscious and not breathing.”
Dozens of people were already in the sea and the rubber boat was already deflating when the Aquarius arrived at the scene around 9.30 a.m. on Saturday, January 27. All floating devices were deployed from Aquarius, rafts were launched and the rescue team started pulling people from the sea.
The MSF medical team on board the Aquarius resuscitated six young children and one woman. Despite their best efforts they were unable to resuscitate two other women who had drowned.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking,” said Ni Mhurchu. “These women were mothers. We’re now trying to care for their very young children who remain onboard Aquarius.”
A total of 16 people, together with their caretakers, were medically evacuated from the Aquarius by an Italian Navy Helicopter to Sfax, Tunisia. This included all six resuscitated children and several women with water in their lungs. The MSF medical team also treated many severe fuel burns as well as over a dozen mild to moderate hypothermia cases. Many survivors were disorientated and confused as a result of inhaling fuel which had leaked into the rubber boat.