Rescuers pull nearly 400 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off coast of Tunisia

·2-min read
It is not yet known whether anyone died or was injured when the overcrowded boat’s engine stopped working (Reuters)
It is not yet known whether anyone died or was injured when the overcrowded boat’s engine stopped working (Reuters)

Two ships saved 394 migrants from a dangerously overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean sea on Sunday.

The German and French NGO ships Sea-Watch 3 and Ocean Viking rescued the migrants overnight, from waters about 40 miles away from the coast of Tunisia, in an operation that lasted around six hours.

Sea-Watch 3 took 141 of the survivors while Ocean Viking took 253 people on board. Pictures show life jackets being handed out to the people on the troubled vessel.

The yacht Nadir, from the German NGO ResQ Ship, later gave support.

It has yet to be known if there were any deaths or injuries among the people rescued after the engine of their boat had stopped working and the vessel started filling with water.

Migrant boat departures from Libya and Tunisia have increased in recent months as weather conditions for crossing the Mediterranean have improved.

Many of the migrants in this latest rescue were seen jumping off the boat and trying to swim to Sea-Watch 3, the Reuters witness said. They were mainly men from Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria – according to the news agency.

This year, more than than 1,100 people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa, Asia and the Middle East have died while trying to cross the water into Europe, according to the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration.

On Friday, NGO Sea-Watch said it had rescued nearly 100 migrants in the Mediterranean overnight, many of whom were injured, some with severe “fuel burns” – chemical burns caused by exposure to gasoline mixed with seawater.

Late on Thursday, the ship Sea-Watch 3 rescued 33 migrants from two boats intercepted by the Libyan coastguard in the search and rescue zone of the sea assigned to Malta.

Among them were nine unaccompanied minors, of which three were very small children, and a woman who was seven months pregnant.

Earlier this week, at least 57 people died after a boat capsized off the coast of Libya. Migrants from Nigeria, Ghana and Gambia among those thought to have drowned. Only 18 people were rescued by fishermen and the Libyan coastguard.

Last week, at least 17 Bengali migrants drowned in a shipwreck off Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, while more than 380 were rescued by the coastguard.

The boat had set off from Zuwara, on Libya’s northwest coast, carrying migrants from Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Mali and Bangladesh, the humanitarian organisation Tunisian Red Crescent had said.

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