National Police agents transfer the body of a migrant as 11 migrants disembark vessel Unisea at the port in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, late 10 February 2020 | Photo: Imago Images
National Police agents transfer the body of a migrant as 11 migrants disembark vessel Unisea at the port in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, late 10 February 2020 | Photo: Imago Images

Two migrants have died in an attempt to reach the Spanish Canary Islands in a rickety wooden boat. 18 migrants traveling in the same boat survived and were taken by a cargo ship to the island of Gran Canaria. The migrant boat had been adrift around 800 kilometers southwest of the Canaries when it was spotted.

Spanish media on Sunday reported that two migrants, a man and a woman, have died while trying to reach the Canary Islands by sea. They were traveling in a small wooden boat with 20 people on board.

The man reportedly died before the Unisea cargo vessel reached the boat which was about 800 kilometers southwest of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Spanish newspaper El País.

The woman died in hospital after being evacuated from the Unisea on Sunday morning. Seven others were also evacuated due to symptoms of hypothermia and dehydration. They were flown by helicopter to a clinic on El Hierro on Sunday; five were discharged yesterday and will be accommodated in a hostel in the north of the island, local media report.

The wooden boat was spotted adrift on February 7 by a Moroccan fishing boat, the Spanish rescue service Salvamento Marítimo stated. The fishers did not have the capacity to take the migrants and alerted nearby cargo vessels to help the shipwrecked. The Unisea changed course and, assisted by another ship, took the migrants on board.

The 18 survivors include 14 men and 4 women. They reached the island of Gran Canaria on board the Unisea and disembarked late Monday, February 10. The body of the male migrant was also transferred to land.

According to media reports, the migrants hailed from Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leona and Kenya. The Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras is now trying to verify whether this group of migrants is the same one that has been missing since January 25 when contact was lost with a boat carrying 28 people.

In a statement to InfoMigrants French, the head of Caminando Fronteras, Helena Maleno, said that she was relieved by the news of the rescue but worried about the disappearance of the 28 migrants. "It could be that this is the same boat. In this case, the death toll has increased."

So far, at least four people are known to have died trying to reach the Canary Islands by boat in 2019. A baby born on a boat was found dead in early January by Spanish coast guards during a rescue operation off the island of Lanzarote. In another case, a dead body was found in a wooden boat that was headed for Gran Canaria, El País writes.

 

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