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No food, water and fuel: the horrific journey of 15 migrants from Libya to Europe as told by lone survivor

August 23, 2019 at 03:00 pm | News

Etsey Atisu

Etsey Atisu | Staff Writer

August 23, 2019 at 03:00 pm | News

Mohammed Oga was the only one who survived on the voyage from Libya to Europe. There were fifteen people on board, including a pregnant woman | Times of Malta

First, their fuel ran out. Next, was their food. And then their water. And then one by one, fourteen out of the fifteen people (including a pregnant woman) on the canoe they were aboard, took their last breath and were toppled overboard.

Mohammed Adam Oga, the lone survivor, was spotted and picked up in Maltese waters on Monday, August 19, after the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, spotted a dinghy adrift at sea, reports the BBC.

Footage of the rescue by Malta’s armed forces showed Oga slumped over a man’s body before he was airlifted to hospital.

According to the story, each migrant had paid a smuggler $700 to aid them in making the journey from Libya to Europe in the open sea and in the scorching heat of the Central Mediterranean, which is one of the deadliest stretches of water in the world.

38-year-old Oga, who describes himself as an exiled Ethiopian politician from former rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Front, said he decided to make the journey after he was contacted by friends from Germany.

He told the Times of Malta that once in Libya, he met a Somali named Ismail and together they arranged their passage via a smuggler.

And then, on August 1, having been given the GPS and showed where to head towards, they set off from the Libyan city of Zawia, 45km (28 miles) west of the capital, Tripoli, he said.

The fifteen people on board comprised of a man and a pregnant woman from Ghana, two men from Ethiopia, and 11 Somalis, he added.

Mohammed Oga described the moment after which they run out of fuel, food and water, as a desperate situation as they tried in vain to get help from boats and helicopters passing by.

“We were at sea for 11 days. We started drinking sea water. After five days, two people died. Then every day, two more died.”

Oga described his survival as a ‘God-sent.’

“God sent the Maltese to save me,” he told Times of Malta, while being attached to a drip and too weak to walk.

Narrating his ordeal to the Times of Malta, Oga demonstrated, by slowly closing his eyes, how each fellow passenger of his died.

One by one, almost everybody on the boat died, leaving him with Ismail. “Ismail said, ‘Everyone is dead now. Why would we live?”

“They died in the boat. It was sunny, hot. No food and no water. Ismail said we should put the bodies in the sea. We took the bodies and threw them in the water. The bodies were smelling.”

A critically ill Mohammed leans over the dead body of his friend Ismail before the rescue on Monday. Photo: Armed Forces of Malta
A critically ill Mohammed leans over the dead body of his friend Ismail before the rescue on Monday. Photo: Armed Forces of Malta

Oga narrated how at one point, Ismail became frustrated, going as far as asking that they both die together but he refused. Not long after that, Ismail also died.

He remembers the last days of his journey like being a dream although he does not remember his rescue and was unaware that Ismail had died.

Mohammed Oga, according to the BBC, believes he faces arrest if he returns to Ethiopia because his former rebel group is outlawed. He left 15 years ago, first for Eritrea and then Sudan, and wants to travel to the UK.

Mohammed Adam Oga is being treated at Malta's Mater Dei hospital for dehydration
Mohammed Adam Oga is being treated at Malta’s Mater Dei hospital for dehydration | Times of Malta

According to the UN, 839 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, making it the most dangerous sea route for refugees and migrants in the world.

Mohammed is one of more than 40,000 people who have survived crossing the treacherous Mediterranean to Europe’s coasts this year, including 1,000 to Malta.

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