OAN’s Roy Francis
12:21 PM – Wednesday, June 14, 2023
In one of the worst boating accidents of the year, a fishing boat carrying migrants capsized and sank off the coast of Greece leaving at least 79 dead and dozens missing on Wednesday according to officials.
According to authorities, the boat sank overnight in international waters about 45 miles southwest of the Greek Peloponnese peninsula. The spot where the boat capsized is one of the deepest areas in the Mediterranean Sea.
A large-scale search and rescue operation was underway Wednesday morning, which included six Coast Guard vessels, a Navy frigate, an Air Force helicopter, several merchant vessels, and a drone from the European Union border protection agency, Frontex.
104 people have been rescued so far and taken to the town of Kalamata. However, the boat is believed to have been carrying up to 400 passengers, with authorities unsure how many are still in the water or trapped in the sunken boat.
Among the 104 people that were rescued from the water, 30 were from Egypt, 10 from Pakistan, 35 from Syria and two from Palestine.
“We fear there will be a very large number of missing person,” an official from the Greek Migration Ministry told the AFP news agency.
The boat was believed to have set sail to Italy from the Tobruk area in eastern Libya which has been consumed with conflict and violence since the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
The Italian Coast Guard had first alerted Greek authorities and Frontex about the vessel that was sailing towards them on Tuesday. A network of activists said that it had received a distress call from a boat in the same area, after which a Frontex aircraft and two merchant ships headed out in the direction of the vessel and spotted it.
The Greek Coast Guard said that they had made several calls to the vessel offering help, however they were all declined.
“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 had approached it offering supplies and assistance, it was also declined. Later that evening a Coast Guard patrol boat had reached the vessel and confirmed that there was a “large number of migrants on the deck” and that they “refused any assistance and said they wanted to continue to Italy.”
The Coast Guard then accompanied the vessel which capsized and sank early on Wednesday, prompting the massive rescue operation by all the ships in the area.
This incident is third incident this week to happen on the coast of Greece. On Sunday, 90 migrants on a United States-flagged yacht were rescued from the area after they had made a distress call, and in a separate incident on Wednesday, a yacht with 81 migrants was towed to a port on the south coast of the island of Crete after authorities received a distress call.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou headed to the area where the rescued migrants were being treated, and political campaign events that were planned before the June 25 national elections have been cancelled.
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