Nine of the survivors huddle in thermal blankets on board a Greek coast guard vessel after being found on land | Photo: picture alliance / Associated Press
Nine of the survivors huddle in thermal blankets on board a Greek coast guard vessel after being found on land | Photo: picture alliance / Associated Press

Searches continue, but the Greek coast guard said that hope was running out for dozens of migrants reported missing, after the overcrowded sailing boat they were traveling on capsized and sank in the Aegean sea.

One more survivor has been found alive, reported the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini on Wednesday (November 2) in the morning. The man was found on land, on the southern tip of the island of Evia, the newspaper stated.

Ten male survivors were rescued on Tuesday night, but dozens more migrants are reported missing, wrote the news agency Associated Press (AP). Ekathimerini reported that the survivors include six Egyptians, three Afghans and two Iranians. All of them have been taken to the town of Karystos on the island of Evia.

The survivors were pictured wrapped and huddled in silver thermal blankets on board the Greek coast guard vessel on Tuesday, November 1.

Migrants from Afghanistan, Egypt and Iran

The Greek coast guard carried out searches late into the night but hope was running out, they said. According to the German news agency dpa, survivors estimate there were about 68 people on board, including many women and children.

The survivors, reported dpa, said the sailing boat had set off from Izmir on the Turkish coast and that most of the migrants were from Afghanistan, Egypt and Iran. None of the passengers had life jackets on as disaster struck.

According to AP, nine of the survivors were discovered, after having swum to an uninhabited island south of Evia. A tenth man was plucked from the water hours later on Tuesday afternoon, the coast guard said.

Gale force winds

Weather conditions on Tuesday were particularly difficult, with gale force winds reported in the Kafireas Strait where the boat sank. The strait, reports AP, is "particularly treacherous" where even when the winds are relatively light, the sea can be rough. The strait runs between the islands of Evia and Andros and is situated east of the Greek capital Athens.

The Greek authorities told AP that they had initially been alerted to a boat in distress on Tuesday afternoon, but were not provided with a location. They sent an aircraft, a patrol boat and got two nearby cargo ships to participate in a search.

This is the last in a long line of shipwrecks and sinkings involving migrant boats, which increasingly are attempting to bypass the Greek islands and sail on to Italy. Another boat carrying fewer migrants also got into trouble off the Greek island of Samos on Monday (October 31).

Searches continue off Samos

On Wednesday, reported dpa, there were still seven people missing from that incident, four people were rescued after the inflatable boat they had been traveling on reportedly turned over. The coast guard continues its searches for a third day on Wednesday, reported dpa and Ekathimerini.

On Tuesday, a cargo ship helping with the search efforts, reported AP, spotted a body in Greek territorial waters. A Turkish coast guard vessel then picked the body up. The Greek coast guard said that while they were searching the Turkish coast guard was harassing the search efforts and "displaying weaponry," reported AP.

The Greek Shipping Minister Giannis Plakiotakis accused Turkey on Tuesday of "allowing ruthless smuggling rings to send people to their deaths, with Greece saving as many as it can," reported Ekathimerini.

In a statement, Turkey replied saying the body had been in international waters, and that a Greek boat had approached the Turkish vessel "dangerously close." The Turkish coast guard said the Greek coast guard had pointed their weapons first, prompting a "strong response" from the Turkish vessel.

Missing and rescued

The Greek newspaper Ekathimerini wrote that since the beginning of the year, almost 300 people had died, or are missing in the eastern Mediterranean following similar shipwrecks. Compared to the same figures in 2021, the numbers have "more than doubled," stated the newspaper.

As the UN Migration Agency IOM’s Missing Migrants project points out, these numbers are always an estimate, since it is often unclear exactly how many migrants might have been on board any given ship at the time of it getting into trouble, and other boats may have got into trouble without anyone noticing what happened.

Last month, at least 27 people drowned in two separate incidents around the Greek islands, reported AP. According to the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP), the Greek coast guard said it rescued around 1,500 migrants in the first eight months of 2022. The numbers of those rescued has also risen compared to 2021, because Greek officials say that migrant smugglers are choosing more and more perilous routes in order to avoid EU controls.

With AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters

 

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