Malta has rescued 45 migrants attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing. Among those saved was a pregnant woman at risk of miscarriage, who had to be airlifted. Later, the Italian coastguard picked up another 28 migrants.
The migrants were located after they had sent an SOS signal to Alarm Phone, a volunteer-run rescue hotline for migrants stuck in the Mediterranean. The migrants said that their wooden boat had run into difficulty after spending two days at sea.
Alarm Phone said on Twitter that the pregnant woman was bleeding and might have lost her child, adding that those on board had meanwhile also run out of water.
Migrants brought to safety
The Maltese government initially said that it was monitoring the situation before agreeing to rescue the migrants several hours later.
"The migrants were transferred to a patrol boat and are on their way to Malta," a coastguard spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on the condition of anonymity.
The pregnant woman, however, had to be airlifted by helicopter; there has been no update on her health.
Another distress call
Alarm Phone also reported that there was a second migrant boat in distress in the search and rescue zone that is under Maltese authority.
"A wooden boat with 28 people incl. 3 women & a baby left Zuwarah in #Libya last night," the organization tweeted.
Another boat in distress in the #Maltese SAR zone! A wooden boat with 28 people incl. 3 women & a baby left Zuwarah in #Libya last night. At 21.10 CEST, after receiving their GPS position, we informed the authorities. We hope this time they will launch a timely rescue operation!— Alarm Phone (@alarm_phone) September 18, 2019
As the boat was located only 38 nautical miles away from the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Italian coastguard eventually came to the rescue instead.
Alarm Phone says that in the past eight weeks, it has received 62 such distress calls involving roughly 2,450 migrants at sea. At least 140 of those people lost their lives.