A CRUISE ship rescued 20 migrants on an inflatable dinghy in the Mediterranean who were heard by passengers yelling for help.
The mainly British passengers on board the P&O liner Azura said they heard shouting, whistling and yells for help coming from the water.
When they rushed to ships’ balcony they spotted overcrowded dinghy, which was struggling to stay afloat and its passengers waving frantically.
The Azura’s 3000 passengers were enjoying a three day, £2200 trip and the ship was on its way from Cadiz to Barcelona when the migrants were spotted.
The 290 ft, 115, 000 ton ship was then brought to a halt and a lifeboat was then sent to pick up its struggling passengers, most of whom were men in their late teens and early 20s.
Dorothy Hallet, 73, from Hampshire, who was on the cruise with her husband praised P&O for a “great humanitarian operation”.
“On rushing towards the balcony, it was clear to see that in the water was an inflatable and overloaded dinghy,” she told the MailOnline.
“The officers on the bridge were aware of the situation but it takes some considerable time to stop a large ship and then circle it around to find the small craft again.
“The captain did an excellent job of manoeuvring the vessel.”
It then then took another two hours for all of them to be brought on board the Azura, which was delayed for 10 hours and diverted to the port of Almeria to let the migrants off.
Some passengers reportedly broke out into applause over the rescue while the migrants waved and smiled at the ship as they left when the ship reached Almeria, in south-eastern Spain.
The migrants also thank passengers and the ship’s crew for helping to save their lives.
They revealed that the motor on the dinghy stopped working and that it had been floating in the sea for several hours.
Most passengers praised the ship’s crew for turning back but one woman said she was shocked some passengers angered the delay.
“Once the migrants were on board we had to go back on ourselves to Almeria, which took up a lot of time,” said the unnamed woman.
“The attitude of the passengers was quite mixed. Many were angry that we had been delayed and had to rescue these migrants. It was actually quite shocking what some people were saying.
“It’s not what you expect to happen on a Mediterranean cruise but these people were just floating in the middle of the sea and were clearly in distress. We couldn’t just leave them.”
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According to figures, an estimated 73,000 have made sea crossings to try and get to Europe this year alone, the majority from North Africa.
A P&O Cruises spokesperson said: “The Azura responded to a distress call earlier today whilst en route from Cadiz to Barcelona.
“The passengers were medically checked on board Azura and then transferred to the Spanish authorities.”
The rescue operation took around two hours to complete[/caption]
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