MELILLA, Spain – Spanish and Moroccan rescue teams resumed on Sunday aerial and maritime search operations off the coast of Spain’s autonomous city of Melilla in northern Africa, after the bodies of at least 20 migrants were recovered from the sea, according to authorities.
Sources from Melilla’s government delegation said a special unit of police divers and a helicopter were called up from their bases early Sunday to join Moroccan patrol teams in the search for more missing people.
“The 21 people who died were traveling on a small boat bound for Melilla,” tweeted an activist from the “Walking Borders” NGO, Helena Maleno, adding that the total number of passengers had been higher and there were “no confirmed survivors” yet.
Spanish authorities had earlier said 20 bodies were pulled from the Alboran Sea after being spotted by passengers on a ferry on Saturday afternoon.
The bodies were discovered roughly half an hour after the ferry departed and maritime rescue services were alerted to the situation.
An underwater search operation was subsequently launched involving a special unit of the Spanish Civil Guard.
Once the bodies were located, the unit sought collaboration with Moroccan patrol boats, as they were in the African country’s jurisdiction.
It was unclear when exactly the boat on which the migrants, all of whom were of sub-Saharan origin, were traveling got into trouble, but a coastal storm had swept the area in recent days.
Due to currents and sea conditions, authorities from both countries deemed it necessary to comb the area more extensively.