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Fishermen saved after pirates leave them to die

  • Fishing crew left without food, water or fuel after a pirate attack
  • Crew said to have resorted to drinking seawater when rescued
  • Pirates tied crew up for two days
  • Pirates
  • Somalia
  • European Union

(CNN) -- An Iranian fishing boat crew who were tied up, robbed and then left to die by Somali pirates have been rescued by a European Union naval force, officials said Monday.

The rescue was carried out Saturday by the Spanish warship Navarra, the EU's Naval Force Somalia said in a news release. The 13 crew members from the fishing vessel, named UAID 400, had been left without food, water or fuel after a pirate attack days before, it said.

The Navarra was dispatched Friday and its helicopter located the vessel early the next morning, the release said. "The crew were seen on deck waving their arms and making desperate signs for help as the helicopter approached them," it said.

Once the Navarra arrived, a boarding party confirmed the vessel's radio equipment was broken and mobile phones were not working, according to the EU Naval Force.

"The crew were already drinking sea water and there was no food onboard," the news release said. "The crew confirmed that it had been four days since the attack."

The crew reported that pirates had kept them tied up for two days without food or water, and they looted the vessel and took the crew members' possessions, the release said. The warship provided the vessel with food, water and enough fuel to get to shore.

"The Iranian crew, who are now all well, were extremely grateful for [the EU Naval Force's] quick reaction to their distress call that clearly saved their lives," the release said.

The naval force's main mission is to escort ships carrying humanitarian aid in the Indian Ocean and protect other ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean from piracy.