Lone Syrian refugee saved from sinking boat

2016-02-10 18:56
The lone refugee found clinging to a sinking ship. (YouTube)

The lone refugee found clinging to a sinking ship. (YouTube)

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Istanbul - Turkey's coastguard said on Wednesday it rescued a lone Syrian refugee who clung to a sinking boat after it went down while trying to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece.

The coastguard released dramatic footage of the incident on Monday when Syrian refugee Pelen Hussein was picked up by rescuers off the Turkish port of Edremit in the western Baliksehir region.

The pictures showed Hussein, looking exhausted, hypothermic and desperate, clinging on to the bow of the boat as it gradually sank vertically into the water.

The coastguard rescue helicopter spotted him and the rescuer winched down into the water. He urged Hussein in English to "jump into the water!" and then they were both winched up to the helicopter.

Pelen Hussein was one of several dozen refugees who set off in a 10m boat in the hope of reaching EU member Greece.

But the boat sank off Edremit, leaving 27 dead including 11 children, in an incident that was widely covered as it coincided with a visit to Ankara by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Pelen Hussein was one of just half a dozen rescued.

"He was on the verge of hypothermia, and in a state of shock," the coastguard sergeant who rescued him, Tuncay Ceylan, was quoted as saying by Turkish media. "I tried to calm him down."

"When he came to himself a bit he started to cry. Probably his relatives came to his mind as there were a lot of corpses in the water."

"If it had been just a bit later, the boat would have already sunk, most of it was already underwater," he said, adding the refugee had been holding onto the boat for several hours before his rescue.

Turkey has become the major hub for Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, Eritrean and other refugees and migrants seeking to undertake the risky crossing to the EU in a flow that has caused huge alarm in Europe.

The Turkish government struck a deal with the EU in November to halt the flow of refugees, in return for $3.2bn in financial assistance.

But the deal and wintry weather in the Mediterranean do not appear to have deterred the migrants, with boats still arriving on the Greek islands daily.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said the number of refugees and migrants who perished in the Mediterranean in January alone topped 360.

The footage showed Hussein being safely taken to the shore by helicopter. Shivering violently, he was immediately put into a waiting ambulance.

Read more on:    syria  |  greece  |  migrants

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