FIRST SAR DEPLOYMENT 2023
In September, we went on our first search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean with the Sea Punk I. On September 1, we set off from Burriana, Spain, heading for the central Mediterranean. Due to storms and unfavorable weather conditions, we had to stop and weather off Sardinia for several days along the way before the Sea Punk I finally reached the deployment area in the evening hours of September 9.
PATROL TOGETHER WITH RESQSHIP & CURRENT SITUATION IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA
n the morning hours of September 10, we patrolled the so-called Tunisian corridor together and in coordination with the sailing ship Nadir from the NGO Resqship.
As the number of departures on the escape routes across the Mediterranean increased in good weather conditions – i.e. no or only shallow waves – it was to be assumed that people would set off on the escape route. In addition, the bad weather conditions in the days before meant that a particularly large number of departures were to be expected. In fact, this assumption was dramatically confirmed in the days when we ourselves were on duty in the Mediterranean, but also in the days that followed.
Since mid-September, so many people have been fleeing across the Mediterranean to Europe and reaching the Italian island of Lampedusa that even the news has been reporting on it again. This is certainly also due to the fact that Lampedusa has declared a humanitarian emergency because it is not in a position to provide adequate care for the many people on the island.
This humanitarian emergency is anything but unexpected, which is why EU politicians should not be surprised! After all, the number of arrivals on Lampedusa has been rising since the spring. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 260% more people boarded boats in Tunisia between January and August 2023 than in the same period last year
This is not an accidental development: the closure of other routes, such as the central Mediterranean route, due to the development of Libyan militias into a so-called coastguard and massive racist pogroms in Tunisia have massively increased this movement.
What the media often forget in their reporting on the number of people who reach Europe via Lampedusa is the number of unreported cases – i.e. the number of people who pay for their escape attempt with their lives. If many people arrive on Lampedusa, this means one thing above all: many people are currently embarking on the life-threatening Mediterranean escape route – and many are not arriving.
FIRST RESCUE SEPTEMBER 10, 2023
A few hours after the start of the patrol in the area of operation, our crew spotted the first potential sea rescue case in the distance. A small fishing boat that was massively overcrowded with around 150 people on board. Before the crew could get closer to the case with the RHIB and evaluate the situation, they spotted another overcrowded boat in the darkness and had to prioritize this case.
The overcrowded metal boat was carrying 44 people, including six women, 17 minors, some of them unaccompanied, and an infant. After an initial inspection, our crew went to the overcrowded boat with the RHIB and discovered that it was not seaworthy and that a lot of water was already sloshing into it due to the height of the waves. The people had no life jackets, no sufficient water reserves and food on board, and no fuel to make it to a safe harbor on their own. After distributing life jackets and reporting the case to the relevant authorities, the crew began evacuating the people and brought them on board the Sea Punk I – assisted by the crew of the Nadir from RESQSHIP! Our Medic Team from Medical Volunteers International, upon examining the rescued people on board the Sea Punk I, found that some were suffering from severe fuel burns, seasickness and dehydration. There was also one medical emergency that required urgent evacuation and hospitalization. The crew reported this case to the Italian Coast Guard, whereupon initially only this person and his brother were evacuated.
In the meantime, the crew had spotted another overcrowded boat on the horizon and reported the case to the authorities – the people on this boat were also taken over by the same unit of the Italian Coast Guard and subsequently all the rescued people on board the Sea Punk I were also taken over and brought to Lampedusa.The Sea Punk I then had no more rescued people on board and remained on standby in the search area, ready to help.
The previously spotted overcrowded fishing boat disappeared from sight and could no longer be found – it was probably one of the two boats of a similar design that arrived on Lampedusa in the following days.However, we cannot say or confirm this exactly.
SECOND RESCUE SEPTEMBER 10/11, 2023
It was only a few hours before the crew became aware of another distress at sea in the early evening of September 10. Another metal boat, about 8 meters long, without an identification number, without navigation. There were 39 men on board, including 11 unaccompanied minors.
This boat also had no life-saving equipment, no sufficient water reserves and food on board, and no sufficient supply of fuel to make it to a safe harbor on its own. In addition, there was no one who would have been able to navigate the boat safely to shore. Our crew distributed life jackets and reported the incident to the relevant authorities.
The responsible control center ordered the crew to accompany the boat towards Lampedusa for as long as possible and to secure the situation. After only a short journey, however, the boat suffered a water ingress. The crew therefore evacuated the people to the Sea Punk I without further ado.
After two and a half hours, the rescue was successfully completed. The medical examinations did not reveal any serious emergencies, but there were cases of dehydration and seasickness. During the night, our crew was instructed to sail to Lampedusa. There, the Sea Punk I was able to disembark everyone safely in the early afternoon of September 11.
END OF THE FIRST ASSIGNMENT – AND NOW?
During the first rescue, both our RHIB and the Sea Punk I were slightly damaged.
The metal boats, which have been used as escape boats for around a year, are extremely dangerous. On the one hand, they often leak or weld seams break apart during the journey. Secondly, they have dangerous sharp edges and corners, sometimes even under water. It is therefore very risky to sail so close to a metal boat with our RHIB, an inflatable boat with a rigid hull, even in swell. During this maneuver, an air chamber on our RHIB was damaged. For safety reasons, we decided to end this first mission after the second rescue.
At the end of the first mission, the Sea Punk I is now in Augusta, Sicily, where we are carrying out the necessary repairs and preparing for the second mission.
The entire association would like to thank the crew for their commitment! And all supporters for their support!
Sea rescue is a promise – and with your support we can keep that promise.
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