A 17-year-old girl who went missing on Saturday evening after being swept out to sea by the wind while practising paddle surfing at a beach in the Algarve has been found on Sunday afternoon, 16 miles south of the Portuguese and Huelva coasts.
Rescue teams from the Red Cross and Salvamento Marítimo have been searching for her since last night from the port of Isla Cristina. According to sources close to the rescue team, the girl is out of danger, although she is showing clear signs of “hypothermia, physical exhaustion, and weakness after 23 hours adrift”. This makes her discovery “almost miraculous,” according to one of the rescuers. Reportedly, the girl was found by the merchant ship MSC Reef, which had joined the search operation in the last few hours.
Portuguese authorities say the girl went missing from Coelho Beach in Vila Real in the Algarve. And since 8.30 pm on Saturday, nothing was known about her whereabouts, despite the intense search deployed in the area.
The National Maritime Authority received an alert from the Lisbon Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC Lisbon) at that time, reporting that “a young woman had entered the sea with a paddleboard but was unable to row back to the shore, allegedly after being swept out to sea by the wind.”
Maritime Police of Vila Real de Santo António, the Coastal Guard station of said municipality, the Tavira rescue boat, the NRP Cassiopeia, Portuguese Navy personnel, the Coastal Control Unit (UCC), the Republican National Guard, and the Maritime Security and Rescue Society (SASEMAR) of Spain were all dispatched to the location to search by sea.
The rescue teams from the Spanish beach town Isla Cristina joined the search operation at 11.30 pm on Saturday with the LS-Helena rescue boat. However, they had to retreat after several hours of fruitless searching. They then returned at 8.00 am on Sunday when their operations focused on Spanish waters, which they searched until they reached eight nautical miles south of the Huelva coastline.
On land, a 4×4 vehicle from the Portuguese Navy, members of the National Maritime Authority Motorized Surveillance, and members of the Municipal Civil Protection Service (SMPC) of Vila Real de Santo António, with the use of all-terrain vehicles, were also activated. An aircraft from the Portuguese Air Force also participated in the search operation.
The search operation was coordinated by the captain of the port and local commander of the Maritime Police of Vila Real de Santo António, and the Maritime Police Psychology Office also joined the operation to provide support to the missing girl’s relatives.
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