Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 1st of February 2016Case name
: Alarm Phone alerted to boat in distress in the Western Mediterranean SeaStatus of WTM Investigation
: Concluded Place of Incident
: Western Mediterranean SeaSummary of the Cases:
On Monday the 1st of February 2016, at 3.04am, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat on which about 25 people had left Morocco, seeking to reach Spain. A contact person, whose sister was on the boat with her young child, informed us that the boat had left from Nador the day before. Shortly afterwards we were contacted by a man who told us that his wife and child had also left from Nador. Following his account, they were amongst 28 people, including 4 women and 3 children. As both contact persons provided us with the same contact details of passengers on the boat, we assumed that their relatives were travelling together, on a single boat. It was difficult to establish in both distress calls, when exactly the boat had departed from Nador.
We called the Spanish search and rescue agency Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and were informed that they knew that an interception by the Moroccan Navy had taken place and that 36 travellers had been returned to Morocco. All other cases they knew of were from a longer time ago. Shortly afterwards, SM reached out to us and asked us to send them an email with all the details that we had gathered. At 5.48am, SM replied, saying: ‘We will take action. Thanks in advance.’ In the meantime, both contact persons reached out to us repeatedly and they were clearly very distraught and scared.
In another phone call with SM Almeria at 9am, they stated that they had no news yet. They also asked us about information on two other vessels that had embarked the night before, which we, however, did not know about. In further conversations with the contact persons we established that the group must have departed earlier on the day before, presumably already in the morning. At 1.40pm SM Almeria informed us that they were now searching the area with a helicopter. In the following hours we exchanged often with the Spanish authorities: at 5.20pm they confirmed that they had rescued a boat with 10 people on board and at 6.20pm they said that they would keep searching during the night, and involve a plane in the operation.
Then, at 8.30pm, the people from the boat reached one of our Alarm Phone members. They seemed to be doing ok but the phone connection broke down before we could pass on the phone number of SM. We passed the information on to SM and they stated that fog was making the search operation difficult. At 8.40pm, in another direct phone call with the travellers, we were informed that 3 people on board had died, which, however later turned out to be incorrect. At 9.20pm, SM informed us that they were still searching with a helicopter but had not been successful so far. At 11.20pm they reported that the people on the boat had been able to hear their helicopter which, however, had to return for fuel. They would send out a military vessel to the location. At 1.08am they told us that they had lost contact to the travellers about 1 hour earlier and were still searching.
Finally, at 2.50am, SM Almeria confirmed that they had found the group 30 minutes earlier. Following their account, everyone was fine health-wise. There were 25 people, including two women, but no children. We then learned from the first contact person that her sister did not have a child with her but was 6 months pregnant. We reached the second contact person at 8.14am who told us that he had been informed about the arrival of his wife and child. We can only speculate but are fairly certain that he was referring to the pregnant woman on the boat.
SM then emailed us, stating that they had concluded a rescue mission that took place about 7 miles off the Spanish coast during which 25 people, including 2 women (one of whom was pregnant) had been rescued to Spain.