Three bodies found along Rota shoreline
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — Spanish search teams continue to scan Rota’s coastline after the grim discovery of three dead illegal Moroccan immigrants floating along the shoreline.
Rough seas are believed to have overturned a rubber, inflatable boat carrying between 40 and 50 immigrants last Saturday in the Bay of Cadiz.
Three passengers survived and are being treated at a local hospital for hypothermia, but the others remain missing. Spanish authorities said that many more bodies could turn up along the coast in the next several days.
One was found along the city’s beach on Sunday hours after witnesses reported seeing the small boat loaded with immigrants at the bay’s entrance.
A search-and-rescue helicopter spotted the second body of a Moroccan man later that day floating near the base about 25 yards from Chorillo Beach, Spanish Navy Capt. Jose Caravaca said. The portion of the beach that runs along the base is nicknamed “Admiral’s Beach” and is just north of the naval station’s port, which hosts both Spanish and U.S. naval ships.
Teams found the remains of a third body Monday morning just north of the base in city waters.
Spanish and civilian helicopters searched all day Sunday looking for possible survivors, but as the hours passed the search shifted to finding remains.
The Spanish base, which Spain shares with about 3,000 U.S. military personnel, donated military blankets to the survivors. Military doctors and nurses also were prepared to help if needed, Caravaca said.
“Personally, I am very sad of the news,” said Caravaca, the base’s executive officer. “We don’t know if they drowned or not.”
On Monday, a civilian search-and-rescue helicopter from Jerez de la Frontera continued scouring the coast looking for more bodies to float to the top and wash ashore. People on the ground also walked the beach looking for victims.
The immigrants are suspected of spilling out of the boat after it overturned or was swallowed by a large wave.
This past weekend adds to the growing list of Moroccans who have died trying to cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain.
Thousands of North Africans attempt to cross the strait in small, flimsy boats. Those who survive and are caught are usually deported. However, it is unusual for the illegal immigrants to travel as far north as Cadiz.