18 people missing at sea as inflatable boat sinks 80km from Lanzarote

18 people missing at sea as inflatable boat sinks 80km from Lanzarote

Maritime Rescue saved nine people last night who were in the water next to a sunken inflatable boat 80 kilometres from Lanzarote, with another 18 missing at sea as the Charity Organization, Walking Borders, has informed that this boat left the African coast with 27 people on board.

According to a report by the Efe news agency from Maritime Rescue sources, the rescue was carried out by the Guardamar Calliope at around 11:00pm last night 80kms southeast of Arrecife at the co-ordinates 28º33' N, 12º52.1' W, and at that time they couldn’t find anyone else afloat in the water.

The position is important as it matches the one given to the rescue helicopters from Gran Canaria and Tenerife by the Las Palmas rescue coordination centre, when the notice was first received that a zodiac had urgently asked for help by phone through Walking Borders because they said that they were sinking.

In fact, according to Helena Maleno, the charities spokesperson, their message was: "If they don't come in 30 minutes, we're dead.” Maleno has criticized the fact that rescuers weren’t mobilized quicker because her charity had given the Guardia Civil the information and position of the boats earlier, and the fact that four pneumatic boats had left the coast of Morocco throughout Tuesday heading towards Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, which are the closest islands.

The Guardamar Calliope located three of the boats between 11:00pm and 12:20am, retrieving a total of 127 people (92 men, 25 women and six children). However, the fourth was still somewhere out at sea.

The zodiac that capsized had left Tarfaya with 19 men, seven women and a child on board, according to information from Caminando Fronteras received through relatives travelling in the boat.

Maritime Rescue tried to mobilize a rescue helicopter while the Guardamar Calliope was on its way to the position where the shipwreck of the Zodiac had been reported, as can be heard in radio communications from the Las Palmas Rescue Centre, according to Efe who have had access to them.

But the closest one, the Helimer 201 based in Gran Canaria, was at that time returning to land to refuel and get new crew, because it had just located another inflatable 110 kilometres to the southeast of Gran Canaria, and the crew were running out of hours. They radioed to say it could be at those coordinates within two hours, at 1.00am, after fuelling and changing crew at the Gando airbase.

Following this, it was considered to send the helicopter from Tenerife, which would take two hours and fifteen minutes to reach the area, but the Guardamar Calliope arrived first.

When his skipper communicated to land that "all the people who had been afloat had been recovered", the Helimer of Gran Canaria was asked to go to meet him, but not to "rescue people in the water", but to evacuate to one of the immigrants who needed urgent medical attention.

There are currently no signs of any more survivors from this tragic crossing.