On Saturday afternoon, the Armed Forces of Malta successfully co-ordinated a joint Italo-Maltese search and rescue operation in which 70 migrants were saved some 40 NM off the Libyan Coast. On notification on Saturday 3 November 2012 at noon, the AFM’s Operations Centre in Luqa dispatched a King Air B200 Maritime Patrol Aircraft to the area to investigate the situation.  The dinghy was soon located 140 NM from Lampedusa and 146 NM from Malta and following initial airborne surveillance was seen to be visibly in distress with the aft of the vessel partially underwater.

The Maritime Patrol Aircraft established contact with a merchant vessel (M/V SEYMA) which was in the area and directed the ship to alter its’ course and head towards the migrants’ vessel to provide assistance.  The King Air assumed a pivotal role during this operation as it relayed messages between the M/V SEYMA and Italian Coast Guard Patrol boats which were ordered to steam to the area by the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Rome. Two Italian Coast Guard Patrol Boats and one Italian Navy Warship ‘FOSCARI’ started the rescue operation at 8.30 p.m. 62 males and 8 female migrants were saved and are currently being ferried to the Island of Lampedusa. Three bodies were also found in the water during the operation and Italian naval assets are still in the area searching for any possible survivors.

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