Desperate battle for life on the Mediterranean

Bel Trew, aboard Dignity 1
Plucked from a sinking dinghy and convulsing on a rescue ship’s hospital stretcher, a heavily pregnant young woman spluttered blood from her scorched lungs. Wide-eyed with panic, Joy, 23, coughed and thrashed as a medical team fought to get intravenous lines into her arms.
Cradling her semi-conscious older sister, Lovett, on the floor beside them, I watched as three Médecins Sans Frontières doctors fought to save Joy’s life. “We’re losing her. Breathing tube,” shouted a nurse as medical equipment crashed to the floor with the roll of the charity’s ship, Dignity 1. The doctor, Pierre, read out the decline in her vital signs.
The sisters, migrants from Nigeria, had each inhaled petrol that had mixed with water in their inflatable boat as it began sinking after setting off from Libya. It burnt not just their skin but their throats and lungs too. “Adrenaline,” another voice in the team cried.
The sisters were among 94 men, women and children badly burnt by boat fuel that Dignity 1’s crew were now frantically trying to help. Everyone on board, from the ship’s cook to the journalists, was pressed to help save lives. My job, I was told, was to keep Lovett upright, breathing and alive.

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