At least 79 migrants have drowned and hundreds more were missing and feared dead after their overcrowded boat capsized and sank in open seas off Greece, AP News has reported.
The incident is one of Europe’s deadliest shipping disasters in recent years.
It was unclear how many passengers were missing but an aerial photograph of the battered blue vessel released by the Greek coast guard showed scores of people covering practically every inch of deck.
A painstaking search-and-rescue operation for survivors continued overnight with the coast guard, navy and merchant vessels and aircraft in place.
Coast guard spokesman Nikos Alexiou told state ERT TV that the 25- to 30-metre vessel capsized after people abruptly moved to one side.
A coast guard statement added that efforts by its own ships and merchant vessels to assist the boat were repeatedly rebuffed, with people on board insisting they wanted to continue to Italy. Coast guard officials said the trawler’s engines broke down around 1.40 am on Wednesday and just under an hour later, the ship started to list abruptly from side to side before capsizing.
The ship sank 10 to 15 minutes later, the statement said.
So far, 104 people have been rescued. Survivors have been taken to the Greek port of Kalamata near Pylos.
At the port of Kalamata, around 70 exhausted survivors bedded down in sleeping bags and blankets provided by rescuers in a large warehouse, while paramedics set up tents outside for anyone who needed first aid.
Greece’s caretaker prime minister, Ioannis Sarmas, has declared three days of national mourning, “with our thoughts on all the victims of the ruthless smugglers who exploit human unhappiness.”
Source: AP News.