Turkey Coast Guard saves lone Syrian refugee stranded on sinking boat

Turkey Coast Guard saves lone Syrian refugee stranded on sinking boat

ISTANBUL - Agence France-Presse
Turkey Coast Guard saves lone Syrian refugee stranded on sinking boat

A handout picture released by the Turkish Coast Guard shows a migrant, identified as 20-year-old Pelen Hussein from Syria, being rescued by members of the Turkish Coast Guard Air Command in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Edremit, northwestern Turkey, on February 8, 2016. AFP Photos

Turkey’s coastguard said on Feb. 10 it had rescued a Syrian refugee who clung on alone to a sinking boat for his life after it went down while seeking to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece.

The coastguard released dramatic footage of the incident that took place on Feb. 8 when Syrian refugee Pelen Hussein was picked up by rescuers off the Turkish port of Edremit in the western province of Balıkesir.

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 some several dozen refugees who set off in a 10 meter 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.

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

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 three billion euros 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 Organization for Migration (IOM) said the number of refugees and migrants who perished in the Mediterranean in January alone topped 360.

Turkey Coast Guard saves lone Syrian refugee stranded on sinking boat