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Heroism amid the terror as boat capsize migrants pulled to safety

By AP Reporters

Published 07/08/2015

A helicopter and a rescue boat on the Mediterranean after a fishing boat crowded with migrants sank
A helicopter and a rescue boat on the Mediterranean after a fishing boat crowded with migrants sank

Hundreds of migrants who survived the capsizing of a smugglers' fishing boat have been brought to Italy by the Irish Navy.

Among those rescued was a Palestinian man who saved his wife by giving her his life-jacket, then diving below the surface to grab their toddler daughter as she disappeared.

Military vessels and aircraft from a multi-nation operation were searching waters off Libya, a day after the 20-metre boat overturned as rescuers were approaching. With seas warm and calm, rescuers expressed hopes others might be alive. In the first hours after the accident, 367 survivors were rescued and 25 bodies recovered.

Military officials from Ireland, whose navy vessel the Le Niamh was among those at the scene, said they were given an initial estimate of 600 migrants aboard the smugglers' boat. If that estimate holds, as many as 200 migrants might have drowned.

At least 367 survivors were taken aboard the Le Naimh, which was approaching the dock at Palermo, Sicily, by late afternoon.

Three other injured survivors were flown out by another navy helicopter to a hospital on the tiny Italian island, Lampedusa, south of Sicily.

During the rescue, crew of Dignity1 tossed life vests and life preservers as survivors swam frantically to boats.

A video made aboard Dignity1 showed the Palestinian family. The mother caressed the hand of her daughter Azeel, a little more than one-year-old, as the father, Mohammed, sat next to them.

"They all went into the water, with only one life-jacket," said medical official Juan Matias Gil. "So this life-jacket was with the father, who gave the life jacket to his wife, because she didn't know how to swim. After that he saw that the baby was in danger of drowning.

"After he came out with the baby, they were seen, they were rescued and they were brought aboard Dignity1."

Several Syrians were among those rescued, including a pregnant woman who at first appeared in danger of miscarriage.

Belfast Telegraph

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