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Sunbathers join rescue as migrant boat washes up on Canary Islands beach

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Sunbathers join rescue as migrant boat washes up on Canary Islands beach
Rescue service members attend to migrants after they landed at Aguila beach on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Borja Suarez REFILE - CORRECTING LOCATION   -   Copyright  BORJA SUAREZ(Reuters)
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By Borja Suarez

AGUILABEACH, Spain (Reuters) – Sunbathers in the Canary Islands joined forces with emergency workers to give water, food and clothes to migrants who arrived unexpectedly on a beach in the Spanish archipelago on Friday.

Some two dozen migrants, among them three infants and one pregnant woman, landed in a rickety boat on the rocky shores of the Aguila beach, Gran Canaria.

Exhausted, cold and some seemingly in a state of shock after weathering the Atlantic, they were given thermal blankets, food and water by rescue workers.

Red Cross officials said the migrants, who were from northern and sub-Saharan Africa, told them of six days spent navigating at times rough waters.

“It was a really tough journey,” Jose Antonio Rodriguez of the Red Cross said. One of the babies on the boat was taken to hospital with a fever.

Sunseekers, who ranged from tourists visiting the island to locals, sprang into action after the boat arrived, he said.

“They were the first ones to help out, giving them food, water and milk for the babies after they saw how hungry they were,” he said. “They also gave clothing as the migrants were soaking wet.”

One woman cradled a weary migrant in her lap as another swimsuit-clad woman gave her water. Another used his beach towel to keep her feet warm.

Some 27,594 migrants had arrived in Spain this year by mid-November, according to data from the Interior Ministry, a decrease of more than 50% from the same period last year.

The popular tourist destination of the Canary Islands, however, has seen an increase of 22% in arrivals, with 1,493 migrants arriving so far this year by mid-November.

(Reporting by Borja Suarez, Writing by Ashifa Kassam; Editing by Alison Williams)

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