Ship captain who rescued 562 refugees from capsized boat says 'you would like to save everybody'

'We did all that's possible to be done,' says Captain Francesco Iavazzo

Matt Payton
Thursday 26 May 2016 15:09 BST
Migrant boat capsizes

The Italian ship captain who saved 562 refugees from a capsized migrant vessel has described the moments leading up to the tragic accident.

Italian Navy patrol boat captain Francesco Iavazzo came across the overcrowded Libyan fishing vessel on its way to Italy across the Mediterranean.

He said that he tried to calm people down and tell them not to to move, but at least five people have since been reported dead by the Italian Navy. Some reports claim even more bodies have been recovered.

Captain Iavazzo told Radio 4's Today programme: "Although I tried to keep people calm, shouting to them: 'Please sit down, do not stand, do not move because the boat isn't stable'. But fear is fear so the people were not listening basically."

The scared passengers did not heed his warning and the boat capsized. Navy rescue swimmers entered the water while the patrol boat came as close to the overturned vessel as possible, throwing flotation devices into the water.

"The boat was already taking in water, so the stability was even worse, so what we could do was make our transfer as fast as possible," Captain Iavazzo said.

"But at a certain point, it capsized. All I did was take my ship as close as possible to the wreck and order my crew to throw into the water everything that was floating to give people something to hold on.

"We've been rescuing five bodies, they are now on my ship, but we cannot exclude that there were more people inside the ship."

Over the last two years, more than 320,000 refugees have landed in Italy in boats. An estimated 7,000 people have perished while attemtping to cross the Mediterranean.

"When something like that happens it touches you inside," Captain Iavazzo added.

"You would like to save everybody, you would like to magically push them out of the water at once, then you crash with reality. We did all that was possible to be done."

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