Dozens saved from sinking boat

A survivor of a boat carrying migrants that sunk in the Mediterranean during the night of May 9 and 10, rests at a shelter in the Tunisian coastal city of Zarzis on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 12 May 2019

Dozens saved from sinking boat

  • The survivors said they spent eight hours trapped in the cold sea before they were spotted by the fishermen who alerted the Tunisian coast guard, Slim said
  • Nearly 70 migrants in Mediterranean Sea — mostly Bangladeshis — died on Thursday after their boat capsized

VALLETTA, MALTA, TUNIS: A Maltese patrol boat rescued a group of 85 migrants late on Friday night and brought them to Malta on Saturday morning.
The migrants, believed to be from North and East Africa, were in a sinking wooden boat, the army said.
Earlier, around 70 migrants — most of them from Bangladesh — died after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea after it left Libya for Italy, the Tunisian Red Crescent said on Saturday.
Survivors told the Red Crescent the tragedy unfolded after some people who had left Zuwara on the northwestern Libyan coast late Thursday on a large boat were transferred to a smaller one that sank off Tunisia.
“The migrants were transferred into a smaller inflatable boat which was overloaded, and 10 minutes later it sank,” Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official in the southern Tunisian town of Zarzis, told AFP.
Tunisian fishermen rescued some of them and brought them to shore in Zarzis.
The survivors said they spent eight hours trapped in the cold sea before they were spotted by the fishermen who alerted the Tunisian coast guard, Slim said.
The bodies of three people were plucked out of the waters on Friday, the Tunisian Defense Ministry said.
Survivors said the boat was heading to Italy and had on board only men, 51 from Bangladesh, as well as three Egyptians, several Moroccans, Chadians and other Africans. Fourteen Bangladeshi nationals, including a minor, were among the survivors, said the Red Crescent.
“If the Tunisian fishermen hadn’t seen them (the migrants), there wouldn’t have been any survivors and we would have never known about this” boat sinking, said Slim.
Charity ships have plied the Mediterranean Sea to rescue migrants in large numbers but the number of rescue operations have dwindled as these vessels have been condemned, namely from the populist Italian government, over their actions.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has imposed a “closed ports” policy, refusing to allow migrants rescued at sea to enter his country.
On Friday, however, more than 60 migrants disembarked in Italy after two boats which had left Libya faced difficulties at sea and needed assistance.
The UN agency for refugees, the UNHCR, called for stepped up search and rescue operations to avoid future tragedies in the Mediterranean, which it calls the “world’s deadliest sea crossing.”
“Across the region we need to strengthen the capacity of search and rescue operations,” said Vincent Cochetel, the agency’s special envoy for the Mediterranean.
“If we don’t act now, we’re almost certain to see more tragic events in the coming weeks and months,” he warned.
According to the UNHCR, the journey across the Mediterranean “is becoming increasingly fatal for those who risk it.”
It said: “In the first four months of this year, one person has died (crossing the Mediterranean) for every three that have reached European shores, after departing from Libya.”
Malta has spearheaded EU efforts to share migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean among several member states after rescue ships were refused entry by Italy.
The EU’s commissioner responsible for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, visited Malta on Tuesday and praised the island for its response to irregular migration across the Mediterranean.
“Without a doubt, Malta is facing great migration challenges compared to the size of the population,” Avramopoulos said.
“Overall, at the EU level we have returned to pre-crisis levels of irregular arrivals, but in Malta arrivals increased in 2018 due to search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and the volatile and precarious situation in Libya.”
Malta took in 108 migrants in March after its soldiers stormed a small tanker which authorities say had been hijacked by three teenagers, one from Ivory Coast and two from Guinea, who tried to force the boat to take them to Malta and not back to Libya after it had rescued them and other migrants.
The three are now in a Maltese juvenile jail awaiting trial. They have pleaded not guilty.
Another group of 87 migrants was also rescued by a Maltese patrol boat and brought to Malta later that month.


Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

Updated 22 August 2019

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

  • WHO issues first report on microplastics in drinking water
  • Reassures consumers that risk is low, but says more study needed
GENEVA: Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns but the limited data appears reassuring, the UN agency said its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.
Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.
“The headline message is to reassure drinking water consumers around the world, that based on this assessment, our assessment of the risk is that it is low,” Bruce Gordon of the WHO’s department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, told a briefing.
The WHO did not recommended routine monitoring for microplastics in drinking water. But research should focus on issues including what happens to chemical additives in the particles once they enter the gastrointestinal tract, it said.
The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while “smaller particles are more likely to cross the gut wall and reach other tissues,” it said.
Health concerns have centered around smaller particles, said Jennifer De France, a WHO technical expert and one of the report’s authors.
“For these smallest size particles, where there is really limited evidence, we need know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts,” she said.
More research is needed into risks from microplastics exposure throughout the environment — “in our drinking water, air and food,” she added.
Alice Horton, a microplastics researcher at Britain’s National Oceanography Center, said in a statement on the WHO’s findings: “There are no data available to show that microplastics pose a hazard to human health, however this does not necessarily mean that they are harmless.”
“It is important to put concerns about exposure to microplastics from drinking water into context: we are widely exposed to microplastics in our daily lives via a wide number of sources, of which drinking water is just one.”
Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said in June. That study said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish.
The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens — including from human and livestock waste entering water sources — that cause deadly diarrheal disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.
Some 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.”