The Ocean Viking is run by the SOS Mediterranee charity and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) | PHOTO: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Friedel
The Ocean Viking is run by the SOS Mediterranee charity and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) | PHOTO: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Friedel

The humanitarian rescue vessel Ocean Viking picked up 94 migrants on Tuesday after the boat they were traveling on encountered distress at sea. The rescued migrants include women and children.

The Ocean Viking ship, jointly operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), rescued 94 migrants from a rubber boat off the Libyan coast Tuesday.

The rescued migrants include eleven women, four of them pregnant, and "six very young children", MSF said on Twitter.

Alarmphone, the distress hotline for migrants in the Mediterranean, had been contacted with a call for help early Tuesday morning. Alarmphone then informed maritime authorities and the Ocean Viking ship, which had left the French port city of Marseille for the Libyan search and rescue zone ten days earlier.

The Ocean Viking ship has capacity for around 300 people. Its crew told the French service of InfoMigrants that it wants to continue to patrol the waters for other boats before requesting the permission to disembark in Malta or Italy. 

Harsh weather conditions

Crossing the Mediterranean in winter months is especially dangerous because of colder temperatures and strong winds. Migrants traveling in unseaworthy boats are at risk of hypothermia.

"Night falls earlier, temperatures plummet, and the wind and the rain intensify. The sea can sometimes turn into an unpredictable monster … For small boats lost at sea, these conditions can quickly become fatal," MSF writes in an article on their website.

The NGO further reports that currently, the waves in the Central Mediterranean Sea can be as high as four meters. The boats in which migrants usually take off from the Libyan coast can capsize as soon as waves reach 1.5 meters.

For people who fall into the water, the "chances of surviving drop rapidly with the temperature of the water," explains Till, an MSF rescue worker. "If for example the water is at 15 degrees, you will be unconscious in less than two hours. For people who are in panic and cannot swim, it only takes 2-5 minutes before they sink."

Deadly sea crossing

Though the number of deaths in the Mediterranean has decreased this year compared to the same period last year, the crossing remains dangerous. 

As of November 13, a total of 1,091 deaths have been registered on the three main Mediterranean routes to Europe: that's about 52% of the 2,117 deaths confirmed during the same period in 2018, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Monday. 

The Central Mediterranean route (Italy and Malta) remains the deadliest for refugees and migrants, with 695 deaths reported in 2019, although their number has significantly decreased compared with the 4,580 deaths registered in 2016, the IOM said.

With material from dpa, epd


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