Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 18th of January 2016Case name
: 18/02: 16 cases of distress near Greek islands of Chios, Farmakonisi, Lesvos, Samos, Ro and KastellorizoStatus of WTM Investigation
: Concluded Place of Incident
: Aegean SeaSummary of the Cases:
On Thursday the 18th of February 2016, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 16 groups of travellers in distress in the Aegean Sea. In 12 cases we alerted the Greek or Turkish coastguards, forwarded the positions and phone numbers of the travellers and urged them to perform rescue operations. Beyond that, we were informed about 4 further boats in distress near the Greek island of Lesvos. But in all of these cases the travellers had either been rescued without our intervention or we did not receive enough information to get active.
At 1.51am, two contact persons sent us the phone number and GPS coordinates of a boat in distress on its way to the Greek island of Chios, with 45 travellers on board (case 1). At 1.57am we called the travellers directly. They were panicking and asked for urgent help. We alerted the Greek coastguard immediately afterwards, but we were told that the boat’s location was still in Turkish territorial waters. Thus we called the Turkish coastguard at 2.05am and they promised to search the boat and rescue the people on board. At 2.15am we informed the travellers and the contact person accordingly. However, at 2.25am, both contact persons confirmed to us that the boat had been rescued by the Greek coastguard. Afterwards, we tried to reach the travellers again, but they did not read our messages.
At about the same time, 1.50am, we were alerted via WhatsApp to a boat in distress on its way to the Greek island of Farmakonisi, with 20 people on board (case 2). We tried to reach the travellers several times, but without success. The contact person told us that he, too, had lost contact to the group 25 minutes earlier. At 2.20am we decided to inform the Greek coastguard, although we did not had direct contact to the boat. We forwarded the GPS location and phone number of the travellers at 2.23am. About 30 minutes later we called the Greek coastguard again and were told that a Greek patrol vessel went to the position in question but did not find any boat. However, 40 minutes earlier the same vessel had observed two boats arriving on Farmakonisi. At 3.45am we tried again to speak to the travellers, but only reached an answering machine.
At 4.33am, a contact person forwarded the GPS position of a wooden boat to us, which was close to the Turkish coast northeast of the Greek island of Lesvos, with 250 travellers on board (case 3). At 4.45am the contact person asked us to alert the Turkish coastguard, as he had received information that the boat was in severe distress. We called the Turkish coastguard at 4.48am and forwarded the boat’s GPS position and two phone numbers on board. At 4.55am another contact person alerted us to the same boat and forwarded further phone numbers to us, which we sent to the Turkish authorities via e-mail. At 5.13am and again at 6.10am we were provided with updated coordinates of the boat, which indicated that it was still moving in western direction. Finally, at 6.55am the first contact person informed us that the boat had been rescued by the Turkish coastguard.
At 5am, another contact person forwarded the GPS position of a boat north west of the Greek island of Chios to us, to which he had lost contact (case 4). At 5.07am he asked us alert the Greek coastguard. We called them immediately afterwards and informed them about the boat’s location and its phone number. At 5.20am we also sent an e-mail to the Greek authorities and to the UNHCR Greece, but at 5.25am the contact person informed us that in the meantime the group had safely arrived on the Greek island of Chios. We informed the Greek coastguard accordingly at 5.35am.
At 5.20am, a contact person informed us about a boat in distress north of the Greek island of Ro, the engine of which had broken down with 34 people on board (case 5). We tried to call the travellers directly at 5.30am, but did not reach them. At 5.35am we called the Greek coastguard in Piraeus and tried to inform them about this boat, but they did not listen to us. At 5.40am we talked to them again and they told us that they have to speak directly to the travellers, in order to become active. Thus we gave to them the phone number of this boat and also sent an e-mail, containing the GPS position of the boat and its phone number. Beyond that, at 5.45am we also asked the contact person to urge the travellers to call the international emergency hotline 112 by themselves. However, at 5.50am, the contact person informed us that the group was safe. We did not receive further information, for instance if they had arrived on the island of Ro by themselves or had been rescued, but we informed the Greek coastguard via e-mail that no further action was necessary in this case.
At 5.25am a contact person informed us about a group of 50 travellers who had stranded on the Greek island of Ro, among them 35 children (case 6). We tried to speak to the port authorities on the neighbouring island of Kastellorizo, but did not reach anybody. Only at 6.40am we reached them, but they seemed to be already informed about the stranded group. At 7am a second contact person sent us GPS coordinates of a group on Ro, which were quite similar to the ones of the first alert. However, only in the afternoon we were able to get further information on this group. The contact person who had informed us in the early morning confirmed that the group had been picked up and saved by Greek authorities.
At 6.25am we were informed about another group 65 people, who had stranded on the Greek island of Chios, unable to climb the steep rocks at the shore (case 7). The contact person provided us with GPS position, phone number and some photos of the group and we called the port police on Chios at 6.40am. Obviously, they were already aware of this group, as they mentioned the number of people before we did. They told us that they had already sent someone to this location in order to pick the people up. We informed the contact person accordingly at 6.43am.
At 7.20am the Alarm Phone was called by a contact person and provided with GPS coordinates of a boat in distress northwest of Dikili/Turkey (case 8). We were informed that the travellers had already called the Turkish coastguard, but that they had not reacted to their emergency call. At 7.55am we received updated coordinates from this boat, which showed the boat southeast of Dikili. At 8.05am, we called the Turkish coastguard and forwarded all information we had received to them and urged them to start a rescue operation. At 8.50am the coastguard called the contact person and confirmed to him that they had sent a rescue vessel to the boat in distress. During the afternoon we were not able to obtain further information on this case, as the travellers and the contact person were not reachable. However, in the early evening, at about 7pm, the contact person told us that the boat had been rescued by the Turkish coastguard.
At 8.10am and again at 8.30am the Alarm Phone was directly called from a boat in distress close to the Greek island of Lesvos, near Mytilene in the southeast of the island (case 9). There were 60 people on board, but they were not able to provide us with their GPS coordinates. Thus we alerted a rescue team in this part of Lesvos and asked them to look for the boat in distress. Afterwards, we were not able to reach the travellers again. However, even at 10.30pm their phone was still ringing, although they did not pick up our call. But because of this we assumed, that they had been rescued.
At 9.15am we received a GPS position and phone number of a boat in distress north of the Greek island of Samos (case 10). As the boat’s position was already in Greek territorial waters, we called the Greek coastguard at 9.30am and were told that they had been already alerted to this boat and had sent a rescue vessel. Only on the next day, we received a confirmation from the travellers via WhatsApp, that they had indeed been rescued and that they had safely arrived on Samos.
In the evening of that day, starting at around 8.30pm, several contact persons informed us about a boat between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Farmakonisi, with about 90 travellers on board (case 11). We received a phone number and several GPS coordinates, which showed their route in the direction of Farmakonisi. At about 8.55am we were asked by the contact persons to alert the Turkish coastguard because the boat was facing very high waves and the travellers had asked for help. Thus we called the Turkish coastguard at 9pm. They had already been informed about this boat, but were glad to receive a phone number of the travellers as well. At 10.20pm we received confirmation from one of the contact persons that the travellers had been rescued by the Turkish coastguard and had been brought back to the Turkish coast.
At 8.40pm we were informed via Facebook about a group of 10 persons who had stranded on the Greek island of Kastellorizo (case 12). At 8.52pm the travellers sent us their position via WhatsApp and explained to us their situation: there were 3 very young children and one of them was handicapped and in urgent need of help. At 9.05pm we called the port authorities on Kastellorizo who were already informed about the group but told us that that were only able to pick up the group on the next day, due to bad weather conditions. We informed the group accordingly and proposed that alternatively they could search a street, which was 500 metres away from them, and ask for help in a village, about 5 kilometres away. The group stressed that they were not able to wait until the next day and thus we called the port authorities again at 10.05pm and emphasized the urgency of the situation. We also sent an e-mail to a contact person on the island of Kastellorizo. In the following hours we stayed in contact with the travellers and tried to calm them down and suggested to them to make a fire to stay warm. We also learned that walking to the next village was not possible for them, as most of them were injured. At 3.50am of the next day we called the port authorities on Kastellorizo again. We learned that the weather condition had improved and we were able to convince the officer to send some help to the group. We informed the travellers immediately that a rescue vessel will soon come and pick them up. At 4.08am we learned that the vessel had arrived at their location. It seemed to be a fishing vessel. At 4.16am the travellers confirmed to us that a fishing vessel had rescued them.