A group of 116 persons fleeing the civil war in Libya were rescued by two Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) patrol vessels during the course of the night, when their boat was adrift in a position 45 nautical miles (NM) south-west of Malta, and 47 NM East of Lampedusa. The 50-foot wooden boat, laden with Chadian and Somali migrants, was drifting aimlessly after stopping without fuel and with an engine fault.
The AFM’s Rescue and Co-ordination Centre (RCC Malta) at Luqa Barracks was alerted to the occupants’ situation by the Italian Rescue Co-ordination Centre on Monday night at around 21.15hrs.
An Italian fishing-vessel sighted the persons in distress as they desperately burnt clothes to attract the fishermen’s attention. Their situation was difficult to assess with the onset of darkness, whilst sea conditions were moderate at the time.
Italian authorities informed RCC Malta that they would not be sending any of their assets to assist in the rescue, since the boat in distress was located ‘a little closer’ to Malta, than to Lampedusa.
The Maritime Squadron’s P-24 and P-51 patrol vessels were purposely diverted to the boat location to rescue the persons. By 00.28hrs, both AFM vessels were on location, and began the operation to rescue them and provide humanitarian aid. Their group was made up of 94 males, 18 females, and 4 infants (three babies and a 3-year old boy). AFM personnel also found the corpse of a 29-year old female onboard the stricken boat.
Having rescued all of the persons, the two AFM patrol vessels are now heading back to their Haywharf Base in Floriana, Malta. Their expected berthing time is estimated at 08.15hrs.
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