Ocean Viking humanitarian ship rescues 274 people off Libya

The Ocean Viking, a rescue ship operated by SOS MEDITERRANEE in partnership with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), has rescued 274 men, women and children over three humanitarian operations in the Central Mediterranean Sea on February 18 and 19, 2020.  They are escaping armed conflicts in Libya, and at the time of writing, still waiting for a port to disembark.  Among them are 22 women and 64 minors, most of whom are unaccompanied.  

Nicholas Romaniuk, from on board the Ocean Viking, SAR Coordinator for SOS MEDITERRANEE, said: “It is vital to locate these very fragile, overcrowded boats as fast as possible. Rubber boats can break apart and wooden boats can capsize at any time and their human cargo will sink beneath the waves, out of sight and out of mind.  Rescuing people in distress at sea is a duty and obligation under maritime law.” 

In the morning of 18 Feb, the Ocean Viking was alerted by the NGO Alarm Phone of a wooden boat in distress.  A Spanish EUNAVFOR MED aircraft also made radio contact with the ship, confirming the position and status of the boat in distress.  84 people were brought to safety onboard the Ocean Viking, 71 nautical miles (NM) from the Libyan shore.

Later in the afternoon, a second rescue was completed after the ship was alerted for a rubber boat in distress by Alarm Phone.  98 people were rescued, 37 NM off the Libyan coasts, while deteriorating weather conditions threatened to collapse the fragile structure of the rubber boat.

On 19 Feb, 92 people were rescued from a rubber boat in distress by the SOS MEDITERRANEE teams close to the Sabratha oil platform, during a challenging operation with 2.5-meter waves.  Many of the survivors, including numerous women and children, were extremely weak and in a state of distress.

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