Spanish charity saves 372 people in central Mediterranean; 1 dead


ABOARD THE OPEN ARMS UNO (AP) – Spanish charity Open Arms has rescued 372 people seeking to cross the central Mediterranean to Europe in seaworthy smugglers’ boats and recovered the body of a man who had been shot dead by smugglers, officials said on Sunday.

The Open Arms Uno rescue vessel has remained at sea and is seeking a safe harbor for rescued people, some of whom need medical attention and many are suffering from dehydration, said Open Arms spokeswoman Laura Lanuza. She said they had made at least two requests for a safe harbor in Malta.

In all, the ship made three rescues in 24 hours. In the biggest rescue, the Open Arms recovered 294 people, mostly Egyptians, from an overcrowded barge in waters south of Malta in a nighttime operation that lasted nearly five hours before dawn sunday. Those rescued said they had been at sea for four days.

The crowded boat had been spotted by volunteer pilots combing the Mediterranean for people in distress, and a photo showed its decks packed with people waving for help.

Earlier, Open Arms rescued 59 migrants from Syria, Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea, including 10 minors, from an oil rig they reached in international waters near Tunisia. Also in the fragile smugglers’ boat was the wrapped body of a migrant who had been shot on the shore by smugglers, Lanuza said.

“The smugglers forced people to take the body with them. They spent about a day at sea and held the corpse until they were rescued,” Lanuza said.

On Saturday morning, the Open Arms rescued 19 people from a dinghy off the coast of Libya in international waters. Among them were 16 people from Syria.

An Associated Press photographer aboard the Open Arms said with each rescue desperate people jumped into the water, complicating the operation.


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