Boy, 3, among missing migrants believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea

MOAS and the Italian Red Cross carried out a late-night rescue in the Mediterranean sea: survivors confirm at least 17 are missing

113 migrants were rescued by MOAS and the Italian Red Cross
113 migrants were rescued by MOAS and the Italian Red Cross

A 3-year-old child is among a group of 17 missing migrants following a late-night rescue in the Mediterranean Sea.

Phoenix, the vessel operated by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station and the Italian Red Cross, rescued 113 migrants from a single rubber boat.

A boy, 3, from Nigeria is among those confirmed as missing. The mother, who is safe aboard the MOAS vessel, is still desperately asking for him.

“I was on the rubber boat with my son, he was crying and holding on to me. The sea was rough and the boat was taking on water,” the Nigerian woman, still in shock, told her rescuers.

“At one point some people started to panic. The next thing I knew I was pushed into the water and I lost my son in the chaos as I was trying to grab a life jacket. In a few days he would have been three years old.”

A two-year-old boy is among at least 17 individuals believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea
A two-year-old boy is among at least 17 individuals believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea

 Among the other survivors is also a young man who recounted having boarded the migrant vessel with five friends, none of whom were found.

Another man told the MOAS crew that he saw a 16-year-old girl drown before the arrival of the rescue crews.

It was around 7pm when the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome contacted Phoenix. Still, it was only at 9.20pm that the rubber boat was sighted – making use of the Schiebel drones on board the Phoenix. In cooperation with the other search-and-rescue NGOs in the area, a rescue operation was swiftly launched.

The rescue operation included the crews of Proactiva Open Arms, Jugend Rettet, the Boat Refugee Foundation and the joint MOAS-CRI mission.

A search to recover bodies last an hour before it had to be interrupted due to persistent rough weather at sea.

The number of those dead/missing cannot be confirmed.

According to survivors, the group departed from Sabrata in Libya at around 2pm yesterday afternoon.

At the time of rescue, many people had already been in the water for several hours.

Several survivors are being treated from burns on various parts of their bodies, caused by a fuel leak from the engine.

Women in particular are among those suffering from burns: unlike the men, the women couldn’t off their clothes and their burns are more grievous.

The MOAS crew said one of the women on board is in a state of shock with 36% of her body covered in first-degree burns.

The immediate need to have her medically evacuated is currently hampered by the adverse weather conditions.

“The presence of various search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea will not stop deaths at sea,” Italian Red Cross national president Francesco Rocca said.

“As already declared several times, volunteer organisations cannot replace the institutions: we want a European response to end this shameful tragedy. It is not migration that is killing people, it is the indifference of governments and the international community at large.”

MOAS director Pete Sweetnam added: “Our crews are tired of witnessing yet again people dying needlessly on what continues to be the most dangerous migrant route in the world. Amongst the 17 people thought to have died last night is a child who was not yet three, and whose mother’s shock and grief at the loss of her son is yet another stark reminder of the very real human cost of this journey.”

The Phoenix is now sailing towards Pozzallo, where it is expected to berth tomorrow at 3pm.

The Responder, the second vessel operated by MOAS, is on its way to Messina with 175 migrants on board who were rescued early in the week.