Beach rescuers in life-and-death struggle on Greece island

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Beach rescuers in life-and-death struggle on Greece island

In this picture made on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, members off Spanish rescue group Proactiva Open Arms drive their jet skis during a rescue operation in Lesbos island, Greece. As this Greek island struggles with a huge migrant surge, a close-knit group of volunteers, many from overseas, work alongside Greek fishermen to rescue people at sea, provide medical care and bring comfort and basic necessities. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

In this picture made on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, a Norwegian volunteer from "A Drop in the Ocean" holds a baby after he and his family arrived aboard a dinghy from Turkey in the Greek island of Lesbos. As this Greek island struggles with a huge migrant surge, a close-knit group of volunteers, many from overseas, work alongside Greek fishermen to rescue people at sea, provide medical care and bring comfort and basic necessities.(AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

In this picture made on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, Palestinian doctor Essam Daod, left, cares for Syrian refugees after their arrival in the Greek island of Lesbos. As this Greek island struggles with a huge migrant surge, a close-knit group of volunteers, many from overseas, work alongside Greek fishermen to rescue people at sea, provide medical care and bring comfort and basic necessities. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

In this picture made on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, Argentinean lifeguard Nicolas Migueiz Montan, left, and Oscar Camps, right, both with the Spanish rescue group Proactiva Open Arms drive their dinghy during a rescue operation in the Greek island of Lesbos. As this Greek island struggles with a huge migrant surge, a close-knit group of volunteers, many from overseas, work alongside Greek fishermen to rescue people at sea, provide medical care and bring comfort and basic necessities.(AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

In this picture made on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, Argentinean lifeguard Nicolas Migueiz Montan, left, and Oscar Camps, right, both with the Spanish rescue group Proactiva Open Arms drive their dinghy during a rescue operation in the Greek island of Lesbos. As this Greek island struggles with a huge migrant surge, a close-knit group of volunteers, many from overseas, work alongside Greek fishermen to rescue people at sea, provide medical care and bring comfort and basic necessities.(AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

In this picture made on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, a member off Spanish rescue group Proactiva Open Arms monitoring the sea as a FRONTEX vesel is seen on the background in Lesbos island, Greece. As this Greek island struggles with a huge migrant surge, a close-knit group of volunteers, many from overseas, work alongside Greek fishermen to rescue people at sea, provide medical care and bring comfort and basic necessities. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

Refugees and migrants arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey on November 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

In this picture made on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, Fiorella Crotti member of Spanish rescue group Proactiva Open Arms carries a young kid as migrants and refugees disembark from a dinghy after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. As this Greek island struggles with a huge migrant surge, a close-knit group of volunteers, many from overseas, work alongside Greek fishermen to rescue people at sea, provide medical care and bring comfort and basic necessities.(AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

A man sleeps outside the migrant and refugee registration camp in Moria, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Dozens of overcrowded inflatable dinghies and wooden boats reach Greek islands daily, even during bad weather, and hundreds have drowned as their overloaded and unseaworthy boats overturned or sank. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
Migrants and refugees queue to receive aid packages at the migrant and refugee registration camp in Moria, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Dozens of overcrowded inflatable dinghies and wooden boats reach Greek islands daily, even during bad weather, and hundreds have drowned as their overloaded and unseaworthy boats overturned or sank. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
In this picture made on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, members off Spanish rescue group Proactiva Open Arms wait to help an arriving dinghy carrying migrants to Lesbos island, Greece. As this Greek island struggles with a huge migrant surge, a close-knit group of volunteers, many from overseas, work alongside Greek fishermen to rescue people at sea, provide medical care and bring comfort and basic necessities.(AP Photo/Santi Palacios)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, file photo, Afghan refugees gather around a fire to warm themselves from the early morning cold, after spending the night at a resting point, after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. Afghans make up the second largest nationality -- after Syrians -- arriving on Europeâs shores, accounting for nearly a fifth of total arrivals, according to the U.N. Their flight is driven by despair in a country that remains mired in war and poverty despite a 14-year U.S.-led intervention and billions of dollars in international aid. And their ranks include middle and upper-class Afghans with skills needed to rebuild the war-torn country. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)
An Iraqi man prays at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Monday, Nov. 2, 2015. More than 300,000 people have traveled on dinghies and boats from nearby Turkey to Lesbos this year, with dozens dying along the way. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
A piece of marble reading 'Unidentified' is placed over the grave of a person who drowned on the way from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, at a makeshift cemetery in Mytiline, on the island of Lesbos, on November 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Refugees and migrants, living in a field next to the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, wait to register on November 4, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he would visit Turkey for key refugee talks this month as he called for the faster release of EU aid funds for the refugee crisis. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Refugees and migrants are blocked at the port of Lesbos island due to a strike of Greece's seamen's federation (PNO) on November 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A container used as a freezer to preserve bodies of refugees and migrants that drowned on their way from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos is located next to the hospital of Mytiline, on November 3, 2015. Nearly 500 people have died trying to cross the Aegean Sea from neighbouring Turkey this year, many of them in the narrow but treacherous stretch separating Lesbos from Turkey. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A child plays outside the migrant and refugee registration camp in Moria, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Dozens of overcrowded inflatable dinghies and wooden boats reach Greek islands daily, even during bad weather, and hundreds have drowned as their overloaded and unseaworthy boats overturned or sank. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
An Afghan man swims in the Aegean sea as he waits for a ferry to transport him to Athens in the port of Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Thousands of migrants and refugees are stranded on Lesbos due to a ferry strike that began Monday. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
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LESBOS, Greece (AP) — As this Greek island struggles with a huge migrant surge, a close-knit group of volunteers works alongside Greek fishermen to rescue people at sea, provide medical care and bring comfort and basic necessities.

In the past three weeks, roughly 100,000 migrants reached Europe's busiest coastline — 10 kilometers (six miles) of shore in northern Lesbos — whose beaches are littered by mounds of discarded orange life vests. The task can sometimes feel overwhelming, as children die before the rescuers' eyes and there is never an end to the people in need. But the volunteers say the hardship is better than watching the plight of refugees on television.

Here are some of their stories.

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THE PALESTINIAN DOCTOR

Essan Daod, a Palestinian surgeon, flew to Lesbos from Israel three weeks ago to treat migrants, horrified by the scenes of drowning and anguish.

Since then, the 32-year-old doctor has helped deliver a baby on the beach, treated countless broken bones and revived more unconscious infants than he can remember, as he scrambled along the coastline coming to the aid of hundreds in distress.

His worst day on Lesbos was Oct. 28, a Greek national holiday, when high waves broke up a wooden boat crammed with refugees. More than 40 died and some 240 were rescued, with bodies washing up on the beach for days afterward.

"It was like a battlefield," Daod said. "We gave CPR to 15 or 17 people, kids and others. It was a miracle that so many made it, but four or five didn't." Often the grueling work and tragic scenes made him break down with emotion.

Daod recalled a pregnant Iraqi woman with advanced-stage cancer, who decided to make the perilous journey to Europe because she was turned away from hospitals at home. He provided her with an introduction to doctors in Lesbos' main town of Mytilene.

He said emergency response doctors on Lesbos are in urgent need of basic medical equipment, including adrenaline, intravenous lines, oxygen, and tubes to clear water-filled lungs.

Daod, who has worked in an Israeli general hospital and plans to switch his practice to psychiatry, hugged volunteer rescuers and local residents with tears in his eyes as he left Lesbos on Sunday. He promised to return.

"Working here makes you feel human again," he said.

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SPANISH LIFEGUARDS

There are only a handful of volunteers from Proactiva Open Arms, but they seem to be everywhere in their yellow T-shirts, every time a dinghy in distress reaches northern Lesbos.

As the crisis escalated earlier this year, the Spanish lifeguards noticed that many refugees couldn't swim and were drowning near the coastline. They decided to come and help, and only officially formed a charity after reaching Lesbos.

They started their rescues in an abandoned refugee boat, but now use jet-skis to bring stranded migrants to shore. Proactiva has raised more than 250,000 euros with an online donation drive.

"In one day here I saw more dead people than I had in 15 years while working as a live guard," said Gerard Canals, who heads the current Proactiva mission. He worries about conditions at sea with the coming winter.

"When you see what's going on and you know that you can make some difference, you have to do something," said Canals. "You can't turn your head away as if nothing is happening."

Now, Canals said his volunteers need an 8-meter rescue boat and floating platforms to launch their jet skis from rocky beaches.

"After what you see, it's very hard and it makes you sad," said Canals. "And after that you get angry. Because this doesn't have to happen."

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FRIENDLY NORWEGIANS

Rescued migrants need lifeguards and doctors, but also blankets and a cup of soup, dry clothes and maybe a new pair of shoes.

A group of volunteers from Norway called "A Drop in the Ocean" has set up in Lesbos to help refugees as they step of the boat — lining up shoes and clothes of different sizes next to their outdoor kitchens.

"We were never prepared to see things like this — to see people dying. We have teachers, chefs, people who are not used to saving other people but now that's what we do," said 23-year-old volunteer Hernrik Kjellmo Larsen, who put plans for a master's degree in sociology on hold.

He was on the beach the night of last week's deadly boat accident.

"The boat was overloaded. There were far too many people — and it just went down," he said. "There were people in the water or just wandering around, cold and wet ... I went with as many clothes as I could carry and ... just tried to get people warm."

Like many of the volunteers, Larsen said he was motivated to help after seeing rescue footage on television, and he wants to stay as long as the crisis continues.

"We saw what was happening and thought we just can't stand for this," he said. "We just decided to go. We didn't have a hotel room. We asked our friends to help pay for us ... and they did."

AP Television's Andrea Rosa and AP Photographer Santi Palacios in Lesbos contributed

A Relentless Migration
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