A BRITISH merchant ship sailing back to the UK rescued 54 migrants on an inflatable boat that was on the verge of sinking off Gran Canaria.

The vessel called Hartland Point picked up the travellers, including several pregnant women and children, some 185 kilometres south of the island.

They were taken to the port of Las Palmas where they arrived in the early hours of Friday morning.

One of the boat’s occupants- a woman- had already died when the Hartland Point crew arrived to rescue the group with the small craft struggling in rough seas.

The vessel reported the sighting at 11.15am on Thursday to the Spanish authorities, who immediately mobilised the Salvamar Macondo from the port of Arguineguin on Gran Canaria.

The merchant ship crew said shortly afterwards that the sea conditions were getting much worse and that the inflatable boat was ‘taking on water’, so they swung into action without any delay, as they feared the Maritime Rescue vessel would not arrive in time.

At the speed at which she was cruising, 22.5 knots, it would have taken a minimum of four hours.

The Hartland Point changed its course to disembark the craft’s passengers in Las Palmas and reported that several of them had significant symptoms of hypothermia.

A rescue helicopter took one of the pregnant women to hospital.

An additional seven people, mainly women and children, were also admitted to hospital after landing on dry land.

From November 20 to 27 alone, almost 1,800 people arrived in the Canaries after making dangerous journeys from Africa- mainly Senegal- in unsuitable boars.

The busiest day of the last week was on Sunday with the arrival of 672 people in Lanzarote and another 60 in El Hierro.

So far this year, there have been over 34,600 boat arrivals on the islands- an all-time record and an increase of 132% compared to 2022.

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