A five-year old girl died at the Makarios hospital on Thursday morning after having been rescued alongside over 60 others aboard a small boat off the coast of Cyprus on Wednesday.

State Health Services (Okypy) spokesman Charalambos Charilaou said the child had died following a sudden cardiac arrest.

A further two children remain in intensive care at the Makarios hospital, one of whom is the dead girl’s sister. Charilaou said on Thursday her condition is also “critical”.

Meanwhile, the two children’s mother has reportedly not yet been informed of her child’s death as she is currently at the Pournara migrant reception centre. Arrangements are being made for her to be able to visit her children. It was not immediately clear whether the mother was on board the ship or had travelled to Cyprus previously.

The third child is also being “constantly monitored and evaluated”, Charilaou said.

Two more children are being treated at the Famagusta general hospital in Paralimni, while two adults are being treated for fractured bones at the Larnaca general hospital.

Charilaou said the two in intensive care “are in a very serious condition and are being monitored”.

Speaking to Politis Radio, Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Commander Andreas Charalambides explained that there were a total of 61 people aboard the boat when it was spotted, 11 of whom were taken to hospital.

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A child being treated on shore on Wednesday

Of those 11, four were transported by emergency helicopter, while the remaining seven were received by ambulances upon their arrival at the Ayia Napa marina.

There were 15 children on the boat, five of whom were unaccompanied. Asked about the ages of the children, he said those taken by helicopter to hospital were “around three or four years old”.

Speaking about the boat’s journey towards Cyprus, he explained that it had left Lebanon at midnight on January 18 before spending almost a week at sea. He said it was then spotted off the coast of Cyprus by a commercial vessel which was en route to Egypt.

The 61 were seen cramped in a wooden boat at 4:30am on Wednesday, around 30 nautical miles east of Cyprus.

He also confirmed that all those aboard were Syrian nationals.

Okypy said it mobilised a total of four ambulances and eight crews to respond to the boat’s arrival.

Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis on Thursday expressed the government’s “shock at the unjust loss” of the dead child.

“This new incident highlights once again in the most dramatic way that migration remains a serious problem which demands a coherent European approach and policy,” he said.

“Our thoughts are with the two girls who remain in hospital.”

Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the arrival of the boat had proved the government’s points “over everything we’ve been saying”.

He also sought to reiterate his mission for the EU to re-evaluate and designate parts of Syria as “safe”, which he says will allow authorities to return migrants to the country and deter future arrivals.

He added that the government called on the EU to take action with a team from Europol, Lebanon’s authorities and Cyprus’ migration police, to monitor Lebanon’s borders.

“Every human life is precious and we must protect it,” he said.

Police also said a 47-year-old believed to have been in charge of the smuggling operation and was driving the boat was arrested.

With one of the passengers aboard the boat now confirmed dead and a further two in intensive care, he now faces charges of manslaughter, as well as attempted illegal entry into the Republic and aiding and abetting non-EU nationals to illegally enter the territory of the Republic.

On Thursday the suspect appeared before Famagusta district court, which ordered him remanded in police custody for eight days.

Famagusta CID are investigating.