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Boat sinking in Strait of Sicily, 3-year-old missing

MOAS-Red Cross, 113 rescued from sailing boat

13 October, 18:54

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, OCTOBER 13 - A three-year-old Nigerian boy is among 17 asylum seekers who went missing in the Strait of Sicily, survivors told Italian Red Cross and Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) rescuers on Thursday. The two humanitarian organizations rescued 113 people off an unseaworthy inflatable amid rough seas last night.

    Among them was the little boy's distraught mother, who said the child slipped out of her graps when they both fell off the overcrowded dinghy in heavy seas.

    She said he was wearing a life vest and is hoping he will be found alive.

    A young man told Red Cross rescuers five of his friends are missing. Another man said he witnessed a 16-year-old girl drown before rescuers arrived.

    The rescue operation began following a call received at 19:00 on Wednesday. At 21:20, search drones aboard the Phoenix located the struggling boat, and in collaboration with other search and rescue NGOs in the area, immediately launched rescue operations.

    Thanks to cooperation with the teams of Proactiva Open Arms, Jugend Rettet and Boat Refugee Foundation, the MOAS team brought the survivors aboard. Survivor search operations were interrupted shortly after, due to poor weather conditions. The number of missing is still unknown.

    The boat had left the Libyan coast near Sabratha at 2pm on Wednesday, so at the time of rescue those aboard had already been at sea for hours. Many of the survivors aboard the Phoenix had burns caused by the friction from wet skin against saltwater with clothes that were damp from fuel that had leaked from the engine. Women were particularly affected by these burns, since they didn't remove fuel-soaked clothing from their bodies due to modesty. One of these women had first-degree burns over 36% of her body.

    "Even though various search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, the deaths don't stop. As it's been said numerous times, volunteers can't substitute institutions: we want a response on the European level to stop this shameful unending massacre," said Italian Red Cross President Francesco Rocca.

    "The International Organisation for Migration estimates that in 2016 alone more than 3,500 people have died in the Mediterranean, but that's just the number of registered deaths.

    It's time to find sustainable alternatives to these voyages of death," said MOAS Director Pete Sweetnam.

    While the Phoenix makes its way north, the second MOAS boat, Responder, also part of the MOAS-Red Cross joint mission, is heading to Messina with 175 people rescued during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday. The arrival is expected at 7:00 Friday.(ANSAmed).

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