West News Wire: One of the greatest such disasters this year occurred when a fishing boat carrying refugees and migrants collapsed and sank off the southern coast of Greece, killing at least 78 people and leaving many more missing.
The ship sank in international seas, 47 nautical miles (87 km) southwest of Pylos, off the coast of the Peloponnese, according to a statement from the Greek coast guard on Wednesday. The location is near one of the Mediterranean Sea’s deepest zones.
Strong gusts made the enormous rescue effort more difficult after the disaster, the coastguard said, adding that roughly 100 people had already been saved. Several private vessels, six coast guard vessels, a naval frigate, a military transport, and an air force helicopter participated in the search for those missing.
Four of the survivors were hospitalised in the port city of Kalamata with symptoms of hypothermia. Dozens of others were taken to sheltered areas in the city that were set up by the ambulance services and the United Nations Refugee Agency to receive dry clothes and medical attention.
None of those rescued had safety equipment such as life jackets, the coastguard said.
It was unclear how many passengers might still be in the water or trapped in the sunken vessel, but some initial reports suggested hundreds of people may have been on board.
The boat that was headed for Italy is thought to have left from the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk.
The port of departure was not immediately confirmed by Greek authorities, but a shipping ministry spokesman stated the majority of the passengers were from Pakistan, Syria, and Egypt.
The incoming vessel was originally reported to Greek officials and Frontex, the EU border protection agency, on Tuesday.
The boat was observed by Frontex planes and two merchant ships after that initial notice while it was speeding north, according to the Greek coast guard. More ships and aircraft were dispatched to the region. The coast guard claimed that despite repeated requests for assistance, the vessel denied.
“In the afternoon a merchant vessel approached the ship and provided it with food and supplies, while the [passengers] refused any further assistance,” it said. A second merchant ship that approached it later offered further supplies and assistance, which were turned down, it added.
In the evening, a coastguard patrol boat reached the vessel “and confirmed the presence of a large number of migrants on the deck,” the statement said. “But they refused any assistance and said they wanted to continue to Italy.”
Support service Alarm Phone said on Twitter it had alerted authorities after being contacted on Tuesday by a boat on distress in the Greek Search and Rescue zone. “According to the people, there were 750 people on board,” it wrote on Twitter. “Contact was lost shortly after midnight.”
The IOM’s Missing Migrants Project recorded 3,789 deaths in 2022 along sea and land routes in the region, including crossings of the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea.