900 migrants rescued off Libyan coast

  • As Seven go missing, after USS Fitzgerald collides with merchant ship off Japan

Libyan coast guard rescued 900 migrants on five boats, including 98 women and 25 children, off the coast of Sabratha in western Libya.

According to spokesman for the Libyan navy Ayoub Qassem, the coast guards patrol point of the nearby Zawiya city earlier on Friday headed towards Sabratha city and rescued the 900 migrants, Xinhua news agencu reported.

“They were rescued seven miles off the coat of Sabratha,” the spokesman said.

Qassim pointed out that the migrants are of African and Arab origins, including three Libyans.

He also said that the rubber boats were perforated and submerged, and a large wooden boat was without an engine. The rescue operation lasted more than seven hours.

The coastal city of Sabratha, located 75 km west of the capital Tripoli, is one of the busiest illegal immigration departure points in Libya.

Italian coast guards announced that more than 1,000 migrants were rescued on Thursday from nine rubber and wooden boats off the coast of Libya.

International Organization for Migration on Friday said that “so far this year 9,111 migrants have been rescued in Libyan waters”.

Due to the state of insecurity and chaos, Libya has become a main departure point of illegal immigration. Smugglers take advantage of the situation in the country to send thousands of migrants through the Mediterranean toward Europe, many of whom drown in the way.

In the meantime, rescue crews are searching for seven US navy crew members and at least three others are being treated for injuries after their guided missile destroyer collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan.

Japanese coast guard officials dispatched patrol vessels and an aeroplane while the maritime self-defence force provided a helicopter to search the area south-west of the military port city of Yokosuka.

While the full extent of injuries remains unclear, at least three people required medical evacuation. The US military confirmed that Bryce Benson, the commanding officer of the USS Fitzgerald, was among the injured. He was taken to the US naval hospital in Yokosuka and is now believed to be in a stable condition.

Rescuers were searching for the seven sailors who were thought to have been thrown into the sea or possibly trapped inside damaged sections of the destroyer, said Japanese coast guard spokesman Yoshihito Nakamura.

The USS Fitzgerald sustained damage to its starboard side in the collision with ACX Crystal, a 26,362-tonne container vessel from the Philippines.

US military commanders in Japan briefed locally based relatives at a family support centre at 9.45am. Ahead of the meeting, family of the crew described their distress at the wait for information.

A concerned parent wrote on the ship’s Facebook page: “The news just reported 7 missing sailors, this is making my heart ache, please let us know soon! Praying for all aboard!”

Another posted: “My daughter is on this ship as well. We are mess here. Praying for all sailors.”

Rita Schrimsher, whose 23-year-old grandson Jackson Schrimsher was aboard the ship, told the Associated Press about the agony of waiting for news from Japan until he contacted her to say he was safe.

She tweeted: “Just heard the sweetest voice and saw a wonderful face. He’s okay. Thank you all for the prayers.”

Zee with additional report from Guardian