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Amanpour joins migrant rescue operation in the Mediterranean

Updated 9:42 AM ET, Thu May 21, 2015
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CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour was onboard an Italian Navy vessel Wednesday as it rescued hundreds of desperate African refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea Dominique van Heerden/CNN
A sigh of relief: Women and children sleep on the deck of the Sfinge, an Italian Minerva-class warship -- "sfinge" is Italian for "sphinx" -- after being rescued.

Producer Dominique van Heerden took these photos after the CNN team helicoptered in from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Dominique van Heerden/CNN
Everyone who participated rescue had to suit up in full protective gear in case any of the refugees and migrants were carrying diseases -- that rule was no different for Amanpour. Dominique van Heerden/CNN
Amanpour speaks with migrants, almost all from Eritrea, onboard the Sfinge.

Tens of thousands of migrants have attempted the perilous journey across the Mediterranean this year, and at least 1,826 have died, according to the International Organization for Migration, many times more than had perished during the same period last year.
Dominique van Heerden/CNN
There were some 290 people onboard the rescued boat, including 35 children, Amanpour reported.

One man was dead by the time the Navy got to the boat, and three were so ill that they were helicoptered to Lampedusa for urgent care.
Dominique van Heerden/CNN
A woman shields her five-year-old child from the intense Mediterranean sun onboard the Sfinge. Dominique van Heerden/CNN
The Italian Navy spotted the medium-sized wooden boat that carried the refugees and migrants some 85 miles from Lampedusa. Dominique van Heerden/CNN
The rescuers know that beautiful weather on the Mediterranean means it will be a busy day, as hundreds of people set off from the North African coast -- mainly Libya -- bound for European shores. Dominique van Heerden/CNN
Surrounded by water with nothing to drink: Dehydration can be a serious problem for those who attempt the sea crossing. Here, a man drinks after being brought onboard by the Italian Navy. Dominique van Heerden/CNN
Rescuing the migrants is an "extraordinarily complex process," Amanpour reported.

"It takes quite a long time to rescue boat of 300 people. They have to check, they have to make sure that there's nothing hostile on board."

"Then all the naval personnel suit up in white hazardous material suits with masks and gloves -- we all had to do the same thing -- in order to make sure that you don't get contaminated by any potential disease."
Dominique van Heerden/CNN
The only way to communicate with the outside world from the middle of the sea is satellite phone. Here, Amanpour stands on the bridge of the frigate Virginio Fasan while she speaks with CNN's Hala Gorani. Dominique van Heerden/CNN
Amanpour speaks with Rear Admiral Pierpaolo Ribuffo, Deputy Commander of Italian Navy and commander in charge of the Taskforce Operation Mare Sicuro, onboard the Italian frigate Virginio Fasan. Dominique van Heerden/CNN
Amanpour speaks with Marco Bagni, commanding officer of the Italian frigate Virginio Fasan. Dominique van Heerden/CNN
The sun sets over the Sfinge rescue ship. Dominique van Heerden/CNN