Israeli aid workers rescue refugees off Greek coast
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Israeli aid workers rescue refugees off Greek coast

Staff from IsraAid charity wade into the water to assist migrants, many of whom cannot swim, after their boat overturns

Staff from the IsraAid charity help refugees to reach the shore after their boat overturned off the Greek coast, September 13, 2015. (photo courtesy of IsraAid)
Staff from the IsraAid charity help refugees to reach the shore after their boat overturned off the Greek coast, September 13, 2015. (photo courtesy of IsraAid)

Aid workers from the Israeli charity IsraAid were quick to react Sunday when a boat full of refugees overturned off the Greek coast, leaving many stranded in the water and unable to swim.

“A boat arrived almost up to the shore of Greece when all of a sudden its engine exploded and flipped the boat,” said IsraAid founder Shachar Zahavi in an emailed statement.

“Some of the women, children and babies didn’t know how to swim and our staff immediately jumped into the water to help them preventing them from drowning.”

The aid workers managed to get all on board safely to shore, where the charity’s medical team was on hand to offer assistance and other staff handed out food and water.

Sunday, Today a boat arrived almost up to the shore when all of a sudden it's engine exploded and flipped the boat….

Posted by IsraAID on Sunday, 13 September 2015

Zahavi also appealed for support for the charity’s efforts in helping the thousands of refugees flocking to Europe, primarily to the brutal years-long conflict in Syria.

A member of the IsraAid humanitarian organization with a young refugee in Greece, September 13, 2015. (photo credit: Courtesy IsraAid)
A member of the IsraAid humanitarian organization with a young refugee in Greece, September 13, 2015. (photo credit: Courtesy IsraAid)

“Our staff is overwhelmed but we cannot stop now especially as more are on their way,” said Zahavi. “With a heavy heart, due to so many of the crises going on in the world, this is a unique and tragic situation unfolding in Europe – one that is particular heart wrenching.”

In a separate incident Sunday, at least 34 asylum seekers, among them 15 babies and children, died when their overcrowded boat capsized in high winds off a Greek island. Four babies and 11 young children — six boys and five girls — were among those on the stricken wooden boat when it sank off the island of Farmakonisi, Athens News Agency (ANA) reported.

Another 68 were plucked alive from the sea and a further 29 managed to swim to safety on a beach on the island, according to coastguard figures. The exact number of those aboard remains unknown but the ANA said it was overcrowded and went down because of high winds in the area.

Founded in 2001, IsraAid is an umbrella organization for Israeli and Jewish groups offering humanitarian aid in disaster-struck areas. It has sent teams to locations around the world, including Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, Sri Lanki following the devastating 2004 tsunami and Peru after it suffered a massive earthquake in 2007.

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