440 people have been rescued by an NGO's ship from the sea between Malta and Libya in an area that falls within the Maltese search and rescue zone. They have been taken to Italy.

The migrants spent four days at sea, battling a storm in a boat that lacked food and water, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said.

“After more than 11 hours of operation, the rescue is now over and a total of 440 people, including 8 women and 30 children, are now safely aboard Geo Barents and being cared for by the team,” MSF said. 

On Tuesday, another NGO, Alarm Phone said that some 500 lives were at risk within Malta’s search and rescue zone.

At the time, two merchant vessels in the area attempted to shield the boat from the large waves. 

MSF dispatched boats to distribute life jackets and assess the feasibility of a rescue, which was difficult because of the heavy sea.   

On Wednesday morning an unconscious survivor was airlifted to Malta by  helicopter.

Alarm Phone thanked the MSF for its work but criticised the EU.

"Once again, not EU member states but non-state actors reacted to a boat in urgent distress," it said. 

Earlier in the week Alarm Phone complained about inaction by rescue authorities in Italy and Malta.

Times of Malta contacted Armed Forces Malta (AFM) and the Home Affairs Ministry for comment on the situation and on the state of the survivor in Malta. They had not replied by the time of publication. 

MSF said on Wednesday that Italian authorities informed it that 100 people would be transhipped to an Italian navy ship off Sicily, with 339 others to be disembarked in Brindisi.

Correction April 5, 2023: A previous version stated that the rescued people had already been transferred to an Italian naval vessel or disembarked in Brindisi. 

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