About 500 people on a large boat in the vicinity of the Italian Search and Rescue (SAR) zone have called for urgent help, the Watch the Med Alarm Phone initiative reported on Friday.
“Alarm Phone is in contact with about 500 people on a large boat who left from Libya and called us from the Italian SAR zone,” Alarm Phone posted on Twitter.
The post read: “Alarm Phone is in contact with about 500 people on a large boat who left from #Libya and called us from the Italian SAR zone. We alerted authorities. Do not waste time: initiate a rescue operation now!”
The volunteer group added: “The approximately 500 people are still in distress at sea although we alerted authorities over 9 hours ago! The people on board report that water is entering the boat through a hole. Authorities have watched them from the sky – when is rescue finally arriving?”
On Saturday morning, Alarm Phone added to the thread of its tweet: “Nearly 24 hours after our first alert to authorities the approx. 500 people are still at the sea! They need RESCUE NOW!”
Just minutes before writing this report, the group added another tweet: “Our last contact to the boat with approximately 500 people was at 7:48h CET this morning. Despite accounts by authorities and the media, the people were not rescued but still out in distress at sea. Since then, we have not been able to reconnect with them!”
Despite Italian acts against illegal immigration, around 3,000 new migrants have arrived in Italy since Wednesday, compared to 1,300 in March last year.
It is worth noting that a boat with 180 migrants drowned on 26 February just a few miles off the southern Italian coasts, triggering harsh criticism of the right-wing Italian government for not activating its coastguard rescue missions.