ATHENS (HPD) — Greek authorities launched a major search-and-rescue operation Tuesday to locate dozens of missing migrants after the boat they were traveling in from Turkey capsized and sank overnight in rough seas east of Athens. the Greek capital.
It was the latest in a series of migrant boat wrecks in Greek seas that have left dozens dead or missing.
Nine people, all men, had arrived at an uninhabited rocky islet. The survivors, who were picked up by a Coast Guard patrol boat, told authorities that 68 people were on the ship before the incident and that they had sailed from Izmir on the Turkish coast. None were wearing life jackets, the Coast Guard said.
Bad weather, with strong winds, complicated the operation, according to the coast guard. The area where the ship sank, the Strait of Kafirea, between the islands of Evia and Andros, is particularly treacherous and even light winds cause strong waves.
Images of the rescue operation released by the Coast Guard showed a small group of people standing under a cliff and gesturing for help, as well as waves crashing against the Coast Guard vessel during the overnight search. A photo released by the Coast Guard showed survivors wrapped in emergency thermal blankets on the deck of the patrol boat.
Authorities initially received a distress call early in the morning from passengers saying their ship was in trouble, but did not provide a location. The coast guard said a helicopter, a coast guard ship and two other vessels that were nearby were involved in the operation.
There was another operation underway since Monday off the coast of the island of Samos, in the eastern Aegean Sea, to search for eight missing after an inflatable boat with several migrants capsized. On Monday, four survivors of that shipwreck were rescued. A coast guard aircraft and a patrol boat, two ships that were nearby and another vessel from the European border agency Frontex were involved in the search, according to authorities.
Every year, thousands of people fleeing violence and poverty in Africa, Asia and the Middle East try to enter the European Union through Greece. Most make the short but often perilous journey from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands in inflatable boats. Others try to go around Greece in crowded sailboats and yachts sailing directly to Italy.
Earlier in the month, at least 27 people drowned in two separate incidents. In one, 18 people died when the ship they had set sail from Turkey sank off the Aegean island of Lesbos. In the other incident, a yacht sank in a storm with about 100 people on board. At least nine people were killed and six were missing.
Off the coast of Italy, more than 900 migrants rescued by NGO ships in various operations in recent days waited in overcrowded boats hoping authorities would assign them ports of disembarkation. Until now, the new far-right Italian government is sticking to the policy of previous governments of not authorizing the immediate disembarkation of migrants.
The interior minister of the new government has said that he will crack down on vessels suspected of aiding irregular immigration.
Separately, 280 migrants landed on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa on Tuesday. Hundreds more were moved from asylum-seeker accommodation to larger facilities in Sicily or mainland Italy.
With information from HPD journalist Frances D’Emilio from Rome.