It was after 7:00 pm on Tuesday and the nurse Paula Atochero was coming home after a 10-hour day at the Red Cross. After a shower, he was finally able to sit on the sofa. But it didn’t take long for the phone to ring. One of the four boats bound for Gran Canaria that Salvamento Marítimo had been looking for for days was on the way. Its occupants, alerted its interlocutor, were in very bad condition. With them, she put her uniform back on and went out shot. On the way he called Miguel Vela, a friend and volunteer nurse from the Red Cross, who joined without thinking.
After arriving at the organization’s base of operations, they decided to go ahead to set up the small field hospital that now, with the arrival of each boat, is deployed at the Arguineguín dock. In the car, they went over the logistics, but the plans fell apart. As they entered the port parking lot, they saw that the big orange rescue boat was already there. One of the sailors made a fuss at them. They ran.
Upon arrival, the sailor handed them an unconscious baby. “When I saw her, the first thing I asked myself was’ why? How can life be so unfair?” Recalls Vela. The nurses were still alone and had to ask the photographers who stood guard at the pier to call 112 so that the medicalized ambulance flew. “We laid her on the ground, put on the gloves that we carried in our pockets, cut off her clothes and began to revive her,” recalls Atochero.
PHOTO GALLERY: Transfer of 52 migrants to the port of Arguineguín
Time seemed not to run and the girl still did not react. Vela looked at her partner and tried to comfort her. “Quiet. We are going to continue, ”he told her. It took two or three eternal minutes until little Nabody, 24 months old from Mali, breathed. The mother, still on the boat accompanied by another young daughter, watched the scene from a distance. The baby was immediately transferred to the hospital where she is kept in the Intensive Medicine Unit, clinging to a fine thread of life. Another child from the same boat is also in critical condition.
When the ambulance left with Nabody, he was not relieved. The service had only just begun. “It was a very complicated assistance,” maintains the coordinator of the Red Cross, José Antonio Rodríguez. “Everyone turned to work. Even the policemen and the civil guards set up the tents and helped to get people out of the rescue ”, he adds. There were another 50 people to disembark after several days of crossing drinking sea water. They came soaked.
Eight other children
The Maritime Rescue sailors began to remove eight other children with very low levels of consciousness. Among them were two brothers, 13 and 5 years old, who assured that they traveled alone because their mother was put up in another boat, according to Efe. Some did cry, which, in the midst of that chaos, was a respite; they were alive. So Vela had to get on the salvamar to identify the most urgent cases.
“I found a drama. I did not see anything. Many bad people, many children, many women and many men. It is a critical situation because everyone asks you for help, “he says. There were severe pictures of hypothermia, dehydration and ulcers, extremely painful wounds caused by the mixture of fuel with salt water.
The drama did not end with the landing and the first attention. Those who were not hospitalized had to be helped by the police to get on the bus that would take them to the detention center where they spend the first 72 hours. Despite the harshness of some trips, there is no other place for the custody of people who arrive in such bad condition. It was not easy to lead them to the Barranco Seco tents. “They could hardly walk, everything hurt, they were crushed,” say police sources.
Atochero and Vela have given several interviews since the rescue, but they confess that it makes them uncomfortable. “We are not the news, we are only witnesses. The news is how in the 21st century there are still people who have to flee their countries like this ”, the nurse maintains.
This dinghy, whose attendance ended at four in the morning on Wednesday, was only the first in a series that will mark a tragic week in the archipelago. Until this Thursday, another three nacelles had arrived in Gran Canaria and another in Lanzarote, in a rebound that is beginning to take shape after a relatively calm February. In two days, 167 people were rescued, adding to the 2,580 arrivals until March 15, according to Interior. The numbers are very far from those of the last quarter of last year – with peaks of more than 8,000 landings in a single month – but they are still double those registered in the same period of 2020.
These first months of the year are also marked in red for their lethality. The so-called “good weather windows” are rare and on such long trips the state of the sea can change completely from when the boat leaves the coast, with the sea calm, until it manages to approach the islands.
The danger has been seen in these latest boats that have also come loaded with women and children, a change in trend that has yet to be deciphered. Of the 167 people, many were taken to police custody badly injured and it was necessary to enter 12 children and 5 adults, according to the latest report by Efe. Two children, including Nabody, and two adults are between life and death. This year there are already at least 18 deaths.
In one of the boats, its occupants reported having thrown the body of one of them into the sea. In another, rescued at dawn this Thursday, one of the 47 migrants on board died. His pregnant wife accompanied him, according to Nurse Atochero, who was also in charge of that assistance.
In one of the boats, its occupants reported having thrown the body of one of them into the sea. In another, rescued in the early morning of e, one of the 47 migrants on board died. His wife, pregnant, accompanied him, according to the nurse Atochero, who was also at the forefront of that assistance. In a collective emotion, the woman asked with courage to say goodbye to her husband, says the health worker. “The guard yesterday was very tough. Your stomach turns when you also see 11 children there wet and barefoot, ”the doctor describes. “We have been seeing hoaxes and more hoaxes for months and we forget that this is reality, people getting into a piece of wood to flee their countries.”
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