Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 13th of January 2017Case name
: Alarm Phone alerted to 1 emergency situation in the Western MedStatus of WTM Investigation
: Concluded Place of Incident
: Western Mediterranean SeaSummary of the Case:
On Friday the 13th of January 2017, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone shift team was contacted at approximately 8am by travellers on a vessel in the Western Mediterranean Sea. In several phone conversations with the boat-people, our shift team learned that there were 10 people on a black rubber boat that had left from Tangier/Morocco about 2am. They could not specify the exact location of their departure and were also not able to pass on their current GPS position. They informed us that they could still see the port of Tangier, as well as the beach and black and red vessels in the distance. They asked us to inform Salvamento Maritimo, the Spanish search and rescue organisation.
We reached out to Salvamento at 8.38am and passed on all the acquire information. They informed us that they were engaged in another Search and Rescue operation and wondered whether this was the boat in question. We let the travellers know that we had informed the Spanish authorities. Afterwards we kept calling the boat but the connection remained bad, with a lot of noise in the background.
At 9.44am, Salvamento told us that they were in contact with the boat but not yet able to find them. As of 10.44am, we were unable to reach the boat-people any longer. At 11.30am Salvamento confirmed that they would send out a helicopter to search for the boat. At 1.01pm, Salvamento informed us that they were still in contact with the travellers and trying to find them. They also thought that they were already close to the Spanish coast. In the following hours, our shift team tried repeatedly to call the travellers, without success. In the evening, at 8.25pm, Salvamento informed us that they had unfortunately not been able to find the boat and would re-launch their Search and Rescue operation tomorrow.
The next day we learned that Caminando Fronteras knew of 21 people who had disappeared the day before, with two bodies already found on the beaches of Tarifa. The 21 people had presumably left on two boats, one of which had left already on Thursday, and one on Friday. In the afternoon, at 4.30pm, a contact person informed us also about the dead bodies that had been found. He did not have news regarding the boat carrying 10 people.
The following days we received further information about the shipwrecks. The boat in question had left on the 13th of January at 3am, carrying 7 men and 3 women, presumably on a boat without engine, just paddles. Apparently when the boat approached Tarifa, two men decided to swim to shore. Their whereabouts are unknown.
In bad weather conditions, the boat continued with 8 people on board. By the time Salvamento found the boat, one woman had died on board. The survivors, 5 men and 2 women were brought to Ceuta.
The second boat that Salvamento was searching for carried 12 people, 7 men, 2 women, 2 small children, and one other unspecified person. The hope to find any of them alive is fading, not least as the six corpses that were already found may be from this boat.