Greece: at least 18 dead in two migrant boat accidents
At least eighteen people died, almost all women, and around thirty others missing when two migrant boats sank in Greece, caught by strong winds, according to a new report by the Greek Coast Guard on Thursday.
Stranded at the foot of a cliff on the island of Kythera in stormy seas, dozens of survivors had to be hoisted up by rescuers using a winch while others struggled to cling to the wall.
In Prague, where he is attending the summit of the European political community, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis lamented the “tragic loss of life” and called for “much more substantial cooperation” to avoid these tragedies.
We must “completely eradicate” the smugglers who attack innocent, desperate people who are trying to reach the European Union on boats that are not in seaworthy condition, he said.
According to an initial report, the bodies of 16 women and a 15-year-old boy, apparently of African descent, were recovered on the east side of the island of Lesbos, off Turkey’s Aegean coast, after their boat sank. a Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Kokkalas said on public television ERT.
The body of an adult male was recovered by divers from the European Border Surveillance Agency (Frontex) on Thursday afternoon, taking the death toll to 18 people, according to the Coast Guard, which is continuing the search at sea.
Ten women were rescued but a dozen people are missing, he added, adding that there were around 40 people on board the boat at the time of the tragedy in the early hours of the morning. “The women were freaking out,” he described.
A few hours earlier, authorities had reported missing after another boat, a sailboat carrying about 95 people, went missing, this time off the island of Kythera, near the Peloponnese peninsula.
Stunning images broadcast by the Coast Guard showed shipwrecked people at the foot of a cliff on this wild island trying to escape large waves crashing against the rock while rescuers, stationed in the dark on the cliff top, they pulled up one by one a winch.
– “Completely destroyed” –
Some of the survivors managed to swim ashore, and a massive rescue operation found 80 people.
“This is the worst possible place on this island” for a shipwreck, Kythera Mayor Stratos Harhalakis commented on ERT, claiming to have seen five bodies.
Seven women and 18 minors were among the survivors, a Coast Guard spokeswoman told AFP, stressing the sailboat was “completely destroyed.”
In the Kythera region, winds reached 102 km/h, the Coast Guard said.
Greece has seen a surge in arrivals of migrants and refugees this year, most of whom set sail from nearby Turkish shores to flee wars and poverty to Europe.
According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 64 people have died trying to enter the EU from Turkey since January 2022, compared to 111 for all of 2021.
At least 30 people died in three shipwrecks in the Aegean last December. However, it is difficult to establish exact dates as some bodies are never recovered or are found on the shore weeks later.
– Athens and Ankara –
Athens and Ankara continue to blame each other for these shipwrecks.
“As long as Turkey does not do what is required by international law and the international conventions it is a signatory to, it is mathematically certain that we will mourn victims,” government spokesman Yannis Oikonomou said.
The Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently accused Athens of turning the Aegean into a “cemetery” with “its repressive policy”.
Athens has been repeatedly highlighted by NGOs and the media for its responsibility in illegal and often violent pushbacks at its sea and land borders. But the Conservative government has always denied these allegations.
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