Hekla María Friðriksdóttir, an Icelander volunteering on the Greek island of Lesbos (Lesvos), spent December 23 on a rescue mission by the shore, RÚV reports. Hekla is volunteering for the non-profit Lighthouse – Refugee Relief on Lesvos, keeping an eye out for boats of refugees approaching the shore, notifying rescue teams who then bring life-boats, and assisting refugees once they reach land. Two thousand refugees have been arriving in Lesbos every day in recent days.
Hekla was on duty on December 23, along with seven other volunteers, when they heard a loud bang. A life-boat with 31 people on board had sailed too close to the shore. “Suddenly we hear a loud bang and I react, convinced the life-boat has burst on sharp rocks in front of the lighthouse,” she wrote on her Facebook page. The boat capsized as one of its sides burst, and Hekla saw people and life vests floating around it.
As she waded out into the ocean to assist the refugees, she ran into one of her fellow workers, carrying a baby, who was coughing up water and began crying as Hekla approached. The baby turned out to be only five months old. “He turns toward me, laughs in relief and hugs me. He had found the baby, face down in the water, and it wasn’t breathing. He saved this child’s life,” Hekla said. She began swimming out toward the people and assisted them in reaching land.
The baby was transported to hospital. Rescue boats arrived once the refugees had been helped ashore, and everyone was reassured that all had been saved. According to Hekla, “In bad weather, and even in good weather, it happens that boats capsize, but this was the first time I was this close.”
Hekla has been volunteering with refugees since October. She started in Presovo, on the border of Serbia and Macedonia, but later went to Lesbos.