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Lampedusa: hundreds of lives lost off the Italian coast

Order of Malta medical team on site immediately

Lampedusa, 4 October 2013

The call came early yesterday, and the first assistance in the
rough seas off the tiny island of Lampedusa was led by the Order of Malta medical team (CISOM). ‘I had worked all night,’ recounts Dr.Emilio Schirru. ‘There was a boat with 500 people on board. It was in difficulties. We managed to save them. So I went to bed, but at 7 there was another emergency call, another boat. I went aboard. Managed to save only six. And then in the sea was a little girl, about three, floating in the water in the midst of hundreds of bodies, even pregnant women. We pulled her in among the six survivors and all the other dead. I have never seen anything like it.’

 Background: The team is CISOM and they are the Italian Emergency Corps of the Order of Malta, 3500 volunteers countrywide operating in the fields of civil protection and emergencies on Italian territory. Special focus: work with the Italian Coastguard and Guardia di Finanza to provide a rescue service at sea for migrants coming to the southern coast and Lampedusa.

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The mission of the Order of Malta is inspired by its tradition of ‘Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum', to assist the poor and the sick, and bear witness to the Christian faith.


The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law. The Order - which is based in Rome, in via Condotti - has its own Government, an independent magistracy, and bilateral diplomatic relations with 110 countries.


The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. Present in Palestine in around 1048, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature.