(ROME) — A migrant boat adrift in the Mediterranean with about 400 people on board was in “huge danger” amid high waves on Monday, Sea-Watch International, a non-governmental rescue operation said.
Italian Coast Guard ships had been dispatched in a rescue operation, the organization said. Another vessel with about 800 people on board was also being rescued about 120 miles off the southern coast of Sicily on Monday, according to ANSA, an Italian news agency.
The adrift vessel had departed from Tobruk, Libya, with migrants heading to Europe, according to Alarm Phone, a migrant-aid group.
“The people on board are in panic and ask for immediate rescue,” Alarm Phone said on Twitter.
The vessel had been taking on water on Sunday as it drifted between Greece and Malta in high seas, both organizations said. Sea-Watch said it came across the vessel “in distress” on Sunday after the captain had apparently abandoned ship.
“Two merchant ships that are ordered not to rescue, instead one was asked by Malta to only supply the boat with fuel,” Sea-Watch said.
Alarm Phone said several people had jumped into the water when they saw nearby merchant ships. The ship that had supplied fuel didn’t rescue any of the passengers, Sea-Watch said.
“A woman reported the seriousness of the conditions on board. The captain left & there is nobody who can steer the boat,” Alarm Phone said. “Several people require medical attention, incl. a child, a pregnant woman & a person with a physical disability.”
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