As It Happens

Tragic scenes from Lesbos where a volunteer desperately tries to save lives

After a boat sinks, a volunteeer on the Greek island of Lesbos describes frantic efforts to resuscitate 10 unconscious babies.
Refugees arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos on Wednesday after being rescued when their boat sank offshore. (ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Greek island of Lesbos is one of the first destinations for many people fleeing war and seeking refuge in Europe.

Most of these refugees are from Afghanistan and Syria, many are women and children and far too many arrive dead, injured or traumatized.

Today, dozens more deaths were reported in the stretch of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Tracey Myers about the crisis. Myers is a volunteer on Lesbos with the charity, Refugees Start. Here are some highlights from their conversation. Click on the link to hear the full interview.

Carol Off: Ms. Myers, you said the other day that you had never seen a day like Wednesday. You never wanted to see a day like that again. What happened?

Tracey Myers: On the morning, we went down to the harbour where sometimes we support rescues, and there was boat after boat of people who were freezing cold, who were sick. People came off the first boat, and there were children. One child had died. One child was really ill. Other people were missing. A member of the team did CPR on one of the children for 25 minutes. We lost that child. And that was the start of the day.

We had to tip the babies upside down and strike them to try to get the water out.- Tracey Myers, Refugees Start volunteer

There was one really large boat, an old fishing boat. People described it as not much better than cardboard. We later learned that the top floor of the boat had fallen on the bottom floor, which caused the boat to sink. The Coast Guard went out to make a rescue, but its boats carry up to 300 people and the Coast Guard can't handle that many people at once. So they had to get some people out of the water, come back, go and get some more people out of the water and come back. We made makeshift stretchers on the harbour in front of the all the tourist restaurants. We had 10 unconscious babies who had been in the water who had nearly drowned that we were going to try to resuscitate.

A family reacts after arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos on Wednesday after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey. (ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

CO: Ten babies? And were you able to resuscitate those babies?

TM: We had to tip the babies upside down and strike them to try to get the water out, then people had to do CPR and other emergency treatment. It was the most horrific thing I've ever encountered; the noise of the wailing families around them. But I'm really happy to report that of those kids who came in, I think nine of them made it.

To hear about Tracey Myers experience take a listen to the full interview.


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