Devastation as seven illegal immigrants die off Lanzarote coast
Lanzarote Cabildo has expressed its “utter sorrow” after seven illegal immigrants died trying to reach the coast of the Canary Islands.
The popular beach of playa Bastián in Costa Teguise was the scene of devastation as rescue workers tried to revive the victims who were then led on the rocks covered by sheets.
This is usually a very popular area of the island but was not as packed as usual because of the cooler weather conditions. Nevertheless, the tragedy caused widespread shock, being the first major arrival of the year of illegal immigrants making the hazardous sea journey from Morocco and the first fatalities of 2018.
The tiny boat coming into shore was spotted at about 10am and a major alert went out to the rescue services.
It is understood there were 27 people on board, all of sub-Saharan origin,of whom seven died.
An investigation is underway amid conflicting reports. Initially, it was thought two of the seven died when they jumped into the sea and the other five bodies were found in the boat.
Later, however, it was reported that everyone on the patera had jumped into the sea as it approached the beach in a bid to make their escape and all seven drowned in the chaos that followed.
The seven victims suffered cardiac arrests and could not be revived by the Red Cross or medics who were quickly on the scene.
Two other occupants of the boat were revived and others needed urgent medical treatment. At least four were taken to hospital whilst the other survivors were transferred to a holding camp. Several were suffering from hypothermia.
The following morning, one of the occupants of the boat was arrested on suspicion of being an organiser of the illegal trip as he had a large quantity of money on him.
The whole area was thoroughly searched in case there were other occupants of the boat who had avoided detection and escaped.
At one stage during the hazardous journey, it is believed the engine of the patera failed and it could have been drifting for hours in bad weather conditions. The boat had been at sea for several days after leaving Tarfaya, in the south of Morocco, and in the expedition there were several minors.
The Mayor of Teguise, Oswaldo Betancort, congra-tulated the members of the emergency service, as well as the State Security Forces and Corps, that “in spite of the means available to them in the island, they have proceeded to attend this new emergency situation with the greater of the diligences.”
Other messages of co-dolence poured in, including from Lanzarote Cabildo which held an official silence.