Statement by Luisa Albera, Search and Rescue Coordinator onboard the Ocean Viking:
“This week, people tried fleeing Libya across the central Mediterranean in numbers unseen for months amid weather conditions favourable to departures.
The team on the Ocean Viking saved the lives of 424 people, not only because it is our obligation as seafarers, but also because as human beings, we continue to believe in the right to life for everyone. It is now the obligation of able to assist States to work together to assign a Place of Safety to disembark the survivors without delay.
We currently care for 422 survivors who remain on our ship, some of whom are in precarious health situations and under constant observation in our onboard clinic. 8 survivors tested positive to COVID-19 in rapid tests administered by our medical team. We have procedures in place for this scenario, we were prepared and are able to isolate positive cases and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on board. But although strict COVID-19 mitigation protocols apply onboard the Ocean Viking, this is a vessel of 69 meters length. This situation is a further reason for the remaining 422 survivors, who are in confined space on the aft deck, to be promptly disembarked in a Place of Safety.
Deteriorating weather conditions and the prospect of rain and strong wind further aggravate our situation. We cannot provide space in the containers on deck for everyone. I will try to find shelter for the Ocean Viking as best I can, but the forecast is bleak.
The 422 survivors currently on our ship – including babies, small children, pregnant women, minors traveling alone – have the same rights as anyone rescued at sea. They urgently need to disembark in a Place of Safety.”
Note to editors:
424 people were rescued in less than 48 hours this week.
On Thursday, February 4, the team on the Ocean Viking spotted an overcrowded rubber boat in distress at the first light of day.
The team rescued 121 people, among them 19 women and 2 small children, and recovered several persons who went overboard in this challenging operation.
Just a few hours later, the team completed a second rescue: 116 people were brought to safety on board the Ocean Viking, among them 9 children aged 12 years or younger.
Just before 7am on Friday morning, February 5, the rescuers on “bridge watch” spotted a small shape on the horizon – a rubber boat in distress. At 9am, the rescue of 71 persons, 11 of them minors, was completed.
While engaged in this operation, the Ocean Viking was alerted to another distress case in her proximity. The team located the extremely unstable and overcrowded rubber boat shortly after and proceeded to rescue 116 men, women and children.
The team on board currently cares for 422 survivors who remain on our ship after a pregnant patient and her partner were urgently evacuated to Malta via helicopter yesterday.