SEA-EYE 4 with over 800 rescued people aboard in search of a port of safety
By Wednesday morning, the crews of the SEA-EYE 4 of Sea-Eye e. V. and German Doctors e. V. and the RISE ABOVE of Mission Lifeline e. V. had rescued a total of 397 people in 6 joint operations. But Thursday night saw another dramatic rescue of more than 400 people from a heavily overcrowded wooden boat.
AlarmPhone reported a maritime emergency Wednesday morning in the Maltese Search and Rescue Zone, where Malta is responsible for coordinating maritime emergencies. AlarmPhone also published the distress call on Twitter. AlarmPhone constantly kept informing the Maltese Rescue Coordination Center of new coordinates and requested coordination of the rescue. However, RCC Malta did not respond to any of the calls for assistance. The SEA-EYE 4 and the RISE ABOVE were about six hours away from the scene of the accident.
Despite the great distance and the number of rescued people already on board the SEA-EYE 4, the head of missions of Sea-Eye and Mission Lifeline decided to proceed to the coordinates transmitted by AlarmPhone to the European rescue coordination centers, because no other help was to be expected for these people in acute danger to life.
The RISE ABOVE reached the two-level wooden boat first on Wednesday evening. By that time, there was already a leak in the boat and water was entering. Several people were in the water without life jackets and had to be rescued directly from the sea. The SEA-EYE 4 arrived shortly after. The crews of the rescue boats quickly provided the distressed people with life jackets, calmed them down and initially stabilized the dangerous situation. This was crucial because such a large wooden boat can easily capsize if unrest or even panic arises. Urgent medical emergencies were first evacuated to the SEA-EYE 4. One person was successfully resuscitated while still on the lifeboat on the way to SEA-EYE 4. The full evacuation of the wooden boat could not be completed until midnight.
There are now more than 800 people on the SEA-EYE 4, which has since set course for Lampedusa. The Italian island is only a few hours away from the scene of the accident and is thus the quickest port of safety to reach.
For the 24-member crew of the SEA-EYE 4, an unprecedented, highly stressful situation now arises. The rescue ship is dependent on the rapid assignment of a port of safety.
Sea-Eye has already asked the rescue coordination center in Rome for the assignment of a safe port and the German Foreign Office for urgent assistance, as Malta still refuses any communication.
“A state of emergency is now in effect on the SEA-EYE 4. Any delay by the authorities endangers the health and lives of the rescued people and our crew. It is shameful how Malta repeatedly shirks its responsibility and ignores distress calls,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.
“The behavior of the European authorities has almost criminal features. The responsibilities are unambiguous and clearly regulated. Why the states do not adhere to it and knowingly abandon people in distress at sea can only be related to a lack of pressure of prosecution via the International Criminal Court. It would be easy to hold those responsible personally accountable!” says Axel Steier, board member and spokesman of MISSION LIFELINE e. V.
„It is shocking how many rescues Sea-Eye and other organizations had to make in the last days. The situation on the ground is dramatic, as the rescue crews are reaching the edge of their capacities, which are no longer sufficient. We need help so that all people who are in distress at sea right now can be rescued. After all, this is our common moral responsibility,” said Dr. Christine Winkelmann, chairman of German Doctors, who are involved in the rescue operation through the ship’s doctor Daniela Klein.