A six-month-old baby died hours after he was plucked from the Mediterranean, Spanish refugee rescue charity Proactiva Open Arms said on Thursday.
The baby boy from Guinea, Joseph, was among 111 survivors taken in by Open Arms on Wednesday after it sent rescue units to a rubber dinghy that was sinking off the Libyan coast.
In video footage of the rescue operation, Joseph’s mother can be seen sliding across a boat as it moves on the waves, shouting: “Where is my baby? I lose my baby. Find my baby, find my baby!”
In the operation, five bodies were recovered.
Joseph’s death brought the total death toll from the shipwreck to six.
Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, tweeted: “Every life matters. It could have been our [baby].”
Joseph and his mother, plus a pregnant woman, were evacuated by the Italian coast guard and taken to Lampedusa island, an Open Arms spokeswoman said.
Three more survivors in urgent need of medical care – a three-month-old baby girl, her mother and a 25-year-old man with serious heart trouble – were airlifted to Malta.
They were taken there because Malta offered the nearest hospital, the Italian coast guard said in a separate statement, noting that Maltese authorities helped with the transfer.
The Open Arms, currently the only active charity rescue vessel in the central Mediterranean, has 257 refugees on board, after three separate operations between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Five bodies are also still on the ship, Open Arms said on Twitter.
“The Med is a cemetery with no gravestones,” the organisation said.
For months, small boats carrying refugees and migrants have been departing from Libya and Tunisia, usually trying to reach Italy.
According to Italian interior ministry data, the country has registered almost 31,000 refugee arrivals in 2020 so far, compared with almost 10,000 over the same period last year.
So far this year, at least 796 people have died while trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).