November 04, 2021
In the night of Tuesday Nov. 2, 2021 the rescue ships RISE ABOVE of Mission Lifeline e. V. and SEA-EYE 4 of Sea-Eye e. V. received a distress call from the AlarmPhone At the same time the responsible authorities were informed. A reaction of the authorities was missing so far.
The smaller, fast RISE ABOVE reached the emergency case first, provided people with life jackets and remained on scene until the larger SEA-EYE 4 arrived. The crew evacuated the people from the inflatable boat, which was unfit for the high seas, and brought them aboard the SEA-EYE 4. Even during the initial rescue, several other distress cases were reported to the rescue ships. By Tuesday morning, the crews of both vessels were able to save 325 lives from a total of 5 boats. The cooperation of both vessels with different characteristics proved to be very effective. While the RISE ABOVE is twice as fast and can reach an accident scene quickly, the SEA-EYE 4 is able to take many people on board and provide medical care in an on-board hospital.
“We are happy that we were able to rescue so many people in the first mission with our new ship, together with the crew of the SEA-EYE 4. Combining the specific strengths and advantages of each of the two ships was invaluable for the rescues,” said Axel Steier, chairman of Mission Lifeline e. V.
“There are 5 people with serious injuries. Up to 10 people had to be treated longer in the hospital today. We will continue to work into the night and still have to provide medical care to about 50 people. Many of those rescued are very seasick, which has also been worsened by the fact that many people have inhaled fuel, causing terrible nausea and vomiting. And there are many skin burns caused by the fuel mixed with seawater. Not to mention older wounds that also need to be treated, and psychologically traumatized patients,” says shipboard doctor Daniela Klein of German Doctors e. V.
“Among those rescued, we have about 150 minors and several families with young children. 11 children are close to three years old. Had our ships not been on the scene in time, the lives of these people would have remained at the mercy of the sea. We are grateful that the families are now in the caring hands of our rescuers,” says Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.
By Wednesday morning, the crews of both vessels had rescued a total of 397 people in 6 joint operations. Then, on Thursday night, there was another dramatic rescue of more than 400 people from an overcrowded wooden boat.
This was preceded by the report of a maritime emergency in the Maltese search and rescue zone, in which Malta is responsible for the coordination of maritime emergencies. AlarmPhone published the distress call on Twitter, among other places. Continuously, AlarmPhone informed the Maltese Rescue Coordination Center about new coordinates and asked for coordination of the rescue. However, RCC Malta did not respond to any of the calls for help. The SEA-EYE 4 and the RISE ABOVE were about six hours away from the scene of the accident.
Despite the large distance and the number of rescued people already on board the SEA-EYE 4, the mission leaders of Mission Lifeline and Sea-Eye decided to approach the coordinates transmitted by AlarmPhone to the European rescue coordination centers, because no other help was expected for the people in acute risk of death.
On Wednesday evening, the RISE ABOVE reached the wooden boat, which had two levels, first. At that time there was already a leak in the boat, through which water was coming in. Several people were in the water without life jackets and had to be rescued directly from the sea. The SEA-EYE 4 arrived a short time later. The teams quickly provided the people with life jackets, calmed them down and first stabilized the dangerous situation, because such a large wooden boat can easily capsize if unrest or even panic occurs. Medical emergencies were first evacuated to the SEA-EYE 4. One person was successfully resuscitated while still on the lifeboat en route to SEA-EYE 4. The full evacuation of the wooden boat could not be completed until midnight.
There are now more than 800 people on the SEA-EYE 4, which has now set course for Lampedusa. The Italian island is only a few hours away from the scene of the accident and is thus the quickest safe port to reach.
For the 24-member crew of the SEA-EYE 4, an unprecedented stress situation now arises.
The rescue ship is dependent on the swift assignment of a safe harbor. Sea-Eye has already asked the rescue coordination center in Rome for the assignment of a safe harbor and the German Foreign Office for urgent assistance, as Malta refuses any communication.
The RISE ABOVE will constantly accompany the SEA EYE 4 until it reaches a safe harbor and assist in the care of the people on board. Also on this day, the close cooperation of both NGOs was crucial for the success of the missions.
“A state of emergency is now in effect on the SEA-EYE 4. Any delay by the authorities endangers the health and lives of the rescued people and our crew. It is shameful how Malta repeatedly shirks its responsibility and ignores distress calls,” says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.
“The behavior of the European authorities has almost criminal features. The responsibilities are unambiguous and clearly regulated. Why the states do not adhere to it and knowingly abandon people in distress at sea can only be related to a lack of pressure of prosecution via the International Criminal Court. It would be easy to hold those responsible personally accountable!” says Axel Steier, board member and spokesman of MISSION LIFELINE e. V.
„It is shocking how many rescues Sea-Eye and other organizations had to make in the last days. The situation on the ground is dramatic, as the rescue crews are reaching the edge of their capacities, which are no longer sufficient. We need help so that all people who are in distress at sea right now can be rescued. After all, this is our common moral responsibility,” said Dr. Christine Winkelmann, chairman of German Doctors, who are involved in the rescue.