The Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT) branch on Lesvos, which the RNLI has been supporting with training and equipment during 2016, completed their first official lifeboat call out on behalf of the Hellenic Coastguard last week (11 November).
It’s an important milestone for the volunteers, marking a closer working relationship with many organisations around Mytilene’s busy port.
The team were called out after a vessel – which had previously been involved in transporting over 200 refugees across the Aegean – began to sink during high winds. The vessel was already moored in Mytilene with no-one onboard, but was at risk of sinking completely.
As well as water rescue, HRT offer a professional diving service, so at first the Port Authority requested them to dive on the vessel to see if it had any big holes under the waterline and decide the best plan of action. Meanwhile the fire service had attached water pumps to the boat. The diver discovered no large holes and the vessel started to float more.
Hellenic Coastguard then asked the lifeboat team to assist in moving the vessel from the small port to the commercial port, so that it could be lifted out with a large crane. The volunteer crew responded quickly, towing the vessel to a place where it could be safely hoisted.
‘This was the first “request to launch” in operational response from the Hellenic Coastguard,’ says Alex Evans, an RNLI trainer who has been supporting the HRT volunteers with intensive training and advice. ‘It provided a great opportunity for the team to use and demonstrate the skills we’ve been developing over past months.
‘The Atlantic 75 lifeboat was alongside the port in the centre of town for over an hour while we waited for more water to be pumped out of the vessel. A large crowd gathered, so the community are now far more aware of the help this voluntary organisation can provide, not just to vessels crossing the Aegean but the whole seagoing community on Lesvos.
‘The deputy mayor was also there and called the HRT after the rescue to thank them and comment on their professionalism.’
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Notes to editors
The RNLI is providing training and equipment to the Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT). It provides a volunteer lifeboat service in the narrow channels between Turkey and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have made the crossing and hundreds of people have died, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
The RNLI is one of a group of European maritime search and rescue (SAR) services who have agreed to help HRT with the migrant crisis under the banner of the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF). The IMRF is the international charity that works with government and non-government SAR organisations to prevent loss of life in the world's waters.
The RNLI is joining forces with the German (DGzRS), Dutch (KNRM) and Swedish (SSRS) maritime SAR organisations, to strengthen the local search and rescue services in the Aegean. We’ll help with coordination, training and the provision of equipment and rescue boats during 2016.
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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.
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