(CNN)The Italian Coast Guard responded to a distress call Saturday from a rescue boat funded by the British street artist Banksy, which requested assistance after taking 219 migrants onboard in the Mediterranean.
“The Italian Coastguard have evacuated 49 of our most vulnerable guests,” a post on the vessel’s Twitter account said Saturday evening. The tweet said that Italian authorities also took the body of a person who had died prior to being rescued by the boat’s crew on Friday.The “Louise Michel,” a former French naval boat, helped to rescue 89 people on Thursday, according to a spokesperson for the vessel. Its 10-person crew later provided help to a further 130 people, including “many women and children,” a post on the boat’s Twitter account said on Friday evening.The message added that the boat was “reaching a state of emergency” and needed “immediate assistance.”Read MoreThe vessel said in a series of tweets earlier Saturday that it was “unable to move” due to its “overcrowded deck,” alleging that no European coastguards have responded to its calls for help. CNN was unable to independently verify this claim.At that time, the Twitter account said 33 of the passengers remained “on a life raft” with one deceased person in a body bag. Referring to the refugees it is safeguarding, the boat said they have “experienced extreme trauma” and need to reach a “place of safety.” In an update posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon, the Louise Michel said its crew members were still waiting for assistance half a day later.
The crew managed to keep #LouiseMichel stable for almost 12h now. Our new friends told us they lost 3 friends on their journey already. Including the dead body in our one life raft, that makes 4 lives vanished because of Fortress Europe… And we are still waiting. pic.twitter.com/Te2PKCv2Gn
— LouiseMichel (@MVLouiseMichel) August 29, 2020 “The crew managed to keep #LouiseMichel stable for almost 12h now. Our new friends told us they lost 3 friends on their journey already. Including the dead body in our one life raft, that makes 4 lives vanished because of Fortress Europe,” it said in its most recent tweet. The pink vessel, named after a French anarchist and bought by Banksy from the proceeds of one of his artworks, aims to “uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice,” according to the project’s website. Banksy has bought a working refugee rescue boat (and sprayed it bright pink)The artist spray-painted the boat with a fire extinguisher and also created an artwork of a girl in a life jacket, who is shown stretching out one hand towards a heart-shaped lifebelt. The image bears a resemblance to the artist’s famous “Girl with Balloon” stencil murals. As well as being customized for search and rescue operations, the Louise Michel is “captained and crewed by a team of rescue professionals drawn from across Europe,” the boat’s website added.It is 30 meters (about 98 feet) in length and can travel at a speed of 28 knots per hour.