Greece in search of survivors of migrant shipwreck

KALAMATA, Greece (Reuters) – Rescuers scoured the seas off Greece on Thursday in a massive search operation as hopes dim for survivors of a shipwreck that has killed at least 79 people, in one of Europe’s deadliest disasters in recent years.

Hundreds of people are said to have packed a fishing boat that capsized in international waters about 80km from the southern coastal town of Pylos early Wednesday, while being tracked by the Greek coast guard.

At dawn on Thursday, a coastguard vessel sailed into the nearby port city of Kalamata, transferring victims of the deadliest shipwreck of the year off the coast of Greece. By early morning, survivors numbered 104, while deaths stood at 79.

Authorities said it was unclear how many people were on the ship and they were investigating an account from a European rescue charity that there may have been 750 people in the 20 to 30 meters long (65 to 100 feet). long) boat.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration said initial reports suggested up to 400 people were on board.

Government officials said the ship departed from the Libyan port of Tobruk, but added that migrants on the boat had consistently refused offers of help from Greek authorities.

“It was a fishing boat full of people who refused our help because they wanted to go to Italy,” coastguard spokesman Nikos Alexiou told Skai TV.

“We stayed by his side in case he needed our help, which they had refused.”

Aerial footage released by the Greek Coast Guard showed dozens of people on the upper and lower decks of the boat looking up, some with outstretched arms, hours before it sank.

Greece is one of the main gateways to the European Union for refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Under a conservative government, in power until last month, authorities have taken a tougher stance on migration, building fortified camps and tightening border controls.

Libya, which has had little stability or security since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, is a major starting point for those seeking to reach Europe by sea.

Smuggling networks are mainly run by military factions that control coastal areas.

The United Nations has recorded more than 20,000 deaths and disappearances in the central Mediterranean since 2014, making it the most dangerous migrant crossing in the world.

(Reporting by Stamos Prousalis and Stelios Misinas; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Leave a Comment