Cyprus's Joint Rescue Coordination Center has picked up more than 300 migrants stranded west of Cyprus. The migrants, who were headed for Italy, will be taken to Istanbul.
Cyprus rescued more than 300 migrants who had left Lebanon and were stranded at sea in two separate incidents between Monday (September 19) and Tuesday, Cypriot officials said.
Authorities mobilized a helicopter and three naval and police patrol vessels to a region 110 nautical miles (203 kilometers) west of Cyprus on Monday evening, after receiving a distress call that a vessel carrying hundreds of people was experiencing engine problems.
Commercial vessels were also deployed to the area and the passengers were safely transferred to the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel Paolo Topic, which had been in the vicinity, Cyprus's Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) said in a statement.
The migrant vessel departed from Lebanon three days ago and was trying to reach Italy with many women and children aboard, JRCC said, adding that the nationality of the migrants couldn't be immediately determined.
Rescuers to take migrants to Turkey
Hours later, a second vessel carrying 177 people was located in distress south of Cyprus.
"The vessel was taking in water and they requested assistance," JRCC Deputy Commander Andreas Zacharia said, adding that the migrants were safely escorted to shore.
JRCC Commander Andreas Charalambides told the Associated Press (AP) that authorities had asked the captain of the Paolo Topic to set sail for the Cypriot port of Limassol so that the migrants could disembark. But he said the captain decided, under the directions of the company that owns the ship, to head to his original destination of Istanbul.
Lebanon, which has become embroiled in an economic crisis, has become a launching pad for dangerous migration by sea to Europe.
With AP and Reuters