EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA: A total of 629 men, women and children rescued at sea off Libya on Saturday June 9, arrived at the Spanish port of Valencia after the Aquarius received the official instruction by the competent maritime authorities to set sail for the port of Valencia, indicated as “port of safety.”
This followed the exchanges with Italian and Spanish maritime authorities during the night of Monday to Tuesday 12 June after more than 36 hours of standby in the international waters 27 nautical miles away from Malta and 35 nautical miles from Sicily.
The distance between the current position of the Aquarius and the port of Valencia in Spain is 760 nautical miles, more than 1.500 kilometers. At a cruising speed of about 10 knots – which may vary depending on weather conditions – it will take the Aquarius more than three days of navigation before it reaches the port of Valencia for the disembarkation of the 629 survivors currently on board.
The Aquarius has duly informed the competent maritime authorities that it would not be safe to travel this long way to Spain with over 600 people on board and that the medical and sanitary situation on board would deteriorate; moreover, that the food reserves on the ship were insufficient to cope with extra three days and of its great concerns about the deteriorating weather conditions on the way to Spain, putting the safety of the 629 passengers at stake/ putting the 629 passengers as well as the crew in danger.
More than half of the 629 rescued on board the Aquarius are supposed to be transferred onto two Italian vessels in order to allow the Aquarius to sail safely and to escort her to the port of Valencia, Spain, for disembarking of all the survivors.
The only humanitarian ship in the central Mediterranean
At the end of its regular stopover in Catania (Sicily), the Aquarius returned to sea Friday night to patrol the search and rescue area as soon as possible, as no other humanitarian ship was in the area at the time.
Coastguard was assuming coordination of the rescue operations, instead asking the Aquarius to proceed to the transfer of about 280 survivors aboard three Italian Coastguard ships. The Coastguard had rescued one of the boats in distress, while the other two boats had been rescued by merchant ships before survivors were transferred to the Italian Coastguard.
Six rescue operations between Saturday and Sunday
While the Aquarius was heading to its new destination, two boats in distress, with, according to the information received, more than 120 people on board, were reported by the IMRCC. The latter instructed the Aquarius to rescue the two boats before carrying out the three transfers (mentioned above). As soon as the Aquarius arrived on scene – more than 50 nautical miles off the coast – at the end of the afternoon, the simultaneous rescue of the two boats in distress began. During the operation, while it was already dark, one of the two rubber boats broke, dragging dozens of people into the water. In critical conditions, SOS MEDITERRANEE’s rescue team managed to recover 229 survivors who were safely brought back aboard the Aquarius.