Between April 4 and 5, some 60 people got on a boat off the coast of Mauritania. They had just enough food to survive four or five days of crossing, but that trip ended up lasting almost three weeks. The ship was adrift until it was located by the Air Force on April 26, when only three survivors and 24 inert bodies remained. The testimonies that the Police have collected from the two men and the woman who survived reveal some details of what was experienced in that small blue and white painted cayuco. The agents describe it as “hell”.
The trip from Mauritania to Gran Canaria, if everything goes well, can be three or four days. And that was apparently the plan, but the barge ended up off the beaten path. With the lost course, the third day the supplies ran out and the fourth there was no more gasoline with which to feed the three engines of the boat. The four skippers of the cayuco, two Senegalese, a Guinean and a Gambian, according to the accounts collected by the agents of the Provincial Brigade of Foreigners of Tenerife, began to get rid of the engines to lighten the weight.
The thirst was pressing. Survivors have counted that they only had 42 liters of drinking water for all, just over half a liter per person. They then faced two weeks adrift with nothing to put in their mouths.
People began to drink sea water, police sources say. As the days passed, the occupants died of hunger and thirst and their companions threw the corpses into the water. But there came a time when the forces weren’t even enough to get rid of those who were leaving. Some went crazy when they found themselves in the middle of nowhere and jumped into the sea. From the different information that has emerged about the people who traveled in this cayuco, it is deduced that the bodies of at least 30 people were lost in the Atlantic.
On the high seas, the day burns the skin and the night freezes the bones: those who managed to stay alive took the warm clothes of the deceased to cover themselves.
After 20 days ”:“ After 20 desperate days, when the currents dragged the canoe, aimlessly and adrift, some 270 nautical miles (about 500 kilometers) southwest of El Hierro, the noise of an airplane was heard. It was an aircraft of the Air Rescue Service (SAR) that sighted the boat by chance while carrying out maneuvers. The three survivors could barely get up. “It’s the toughest mission I’ve ever had,” said one of the SAR helicopter pilots who handled the rescue. The discovery ended up becoming the most tragic trip on the Canarian route of which there is evidence.
Bodies without rest
Almost two weeks after the delicate rescue, the deceased migrants have not yet completed their journey. The 24 corpses remain without rest. They are in the morgue of the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (IMLCF) of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and are reason for confrontation between the forensic body and the Court of Instruction Number 2 of Arona that is handling the case. The forensics demand speed for justice to bury the bodies and thus alleviate the saturation of their facilities, while the responsible magistrate requests “a reasonable period of time” because she is in the process of locating relatives and trying to identify the bodies before burying them.
At the moment, according to a statement from the Superior Court of Justice of the Canary Islands released this Thursday, there is a family living in the Basque Country that has claimed one of the bodies, which is supposedly among the 24 bodies. This Friday, a brother will provide DNA samples that can be compared with samples taken from the bodies. “How long this test takes will be how long it takes to resolve this situation and if this matter has not been resolved next Monday or Tuesday, the judicial authority will make a new decision,” the note states. The rest will end up in niches, probably anonymous, in the cemeteries of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the municipality of Candelaria.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.