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[WATCH] Shocking video images show real extent of migrants’ tragedy

AFM video shows rescue operation held earlier this month in which hundreds of migrants are believed to have perished.

Jurgen Balzan
23 October 2013, 12:00am
The chilling images released by the AFM show hundreds of migrants in distress waiting to be rescued after their boat capsized.


The Armed Forces of Malta have released a video of the rescue operation on 11 October in which 147 migrants were saved after a boat capsized some 60 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.



Government and AFM statements put the number of migrants on board the boat that capsized at 250 of which around 50 persons were thought to be dead or missing. However, claims by survivors that the boat was carrying around 400 persons could be correct, the Colonel at the head of the AFM Operations Squadron said.

The video's release coincides with the EU summit for the heads of government set for tomorrow, which will discuss migration following pressure by Malta, Italy and Greece.

The images, captured by the AFM the Hawker Beech King Air B200 maritime patrol aircraft, show a large number of persons at sea waiting to be rescued by the AFM patrol boats which were dispatched after being spotted by the AFM aircraft.

Last week, Colonel Claudio Spiteri told MaltaToday that the army based its estimate on the images captured by the AFM aircraft involved in the reconnaissance operation, meaning that many others which were probably packing the lower decks might have been trapped.

The video shows shocking images of hundreds of migrants at sea, some wearing life jackets, struggling to stay afloat.

Although, Col. Spiteri could not confirm the real reason why the boat capsized, he said that images captured by the AFM aircraft showed that for some reason the migrants shifted to one side of the boat causing it to turnover.

Describing the incident as "particular," Col. Spiteri said that on being informed by the aircraft personnel that a boat was in distress 61 miles south of Lampedusa, he immediately dispatched the P-61 patrol boat which was around an hour away from the scene.

However, a few minutes later, the aircraft reported that the boat had capsized and that numerous persons were in the water.

"On hearing this I ordered the King Air to drop a life- raft in close proximity of the persons in distress and immediately contacted the Italian command to dispatch their assets."

Other images show the survivors, including several children, being taken aboard the P-61 where they were provided with blankets, food and provisional medical care.

Survivors of the ordeal, mainly Syrian refugees, said that their boat was shot at by armed Libyan persons, claims which prompted the Libyan government to open an investigation.

Asked whether, the AFM aircraft who first spotted the boat on Friday at 4pm had sighted any other vessels in the area, Col. Spiteri said that the images do not show any other boats apart from the one carrying the migrants.

Survivors told MaltaToday that the boat which was around 20-metres long carried many more persons then first reported and the real reason why the boat capsized was because the vessel was shot at by Libyan military personnel who were following the migrants in a separate vessel.

They also said that at least two persons were killed in the shooting and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said three people were wounded in the shooting, citing reports from migrants. It said the shots were fired "perhaps by militiamen who shot to kill".

Meanwhile, some survivors are still waiting to be reunited with their children, spouses and siblings who were taken to Lampedusa during the rescue operation. The process could take weeks, and in recent days the Italian and Maltese authorities have been swapping images of survivors in order to identify the families which have been divided.
Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...
Peter Bbarbara
@Walter Cassar -so you think they just took the trip as a pleasure cruise ! Get a life. And for your information, yes in fact my grandfather was on a ship that was sunk by enemy action in the First World War, leaving my grandmother a widow for 70 years without even seeing his dead body as he was lying somewhere on the seabed...hope that satisfies your curiosity
V Cassar
@bond4711 No body forced them to take that perilous trip. They could have stayed and fought for their country..just like your grandfather did.
Peter Bbarbara
after watching this video, I cannot help thinking of the sometimes senseless and heartless comments expressed by some 'people' who profess to be kind hearted Maltese and think they know it all,and have a solution to every disaster from the comfort of their homes or perhaps during a short bus trip
Peter Bbarbara
after watching this video, I cannot help thinking of the sometimes senseless and heartless comments expressed by some 'people' who profess to be kind hearted Maltese and think they know it all,and have a solution to every disaster from the comfort of their homes or perhaps during a short bus trip
Larry conti
Kif ha jigri lilna .ghax iz-zewgt gvernijiet paroli biss ghax baqaw gejien bil-mijiet.