Greece: Dozens missing after migrant boat sinks, 29 rescued
Greek authorities were conducting a major search and rescue operation on Wednesday for dozens of people believed missing at sea east of the island of Karpathos after a boat reportedly carrying up to 80 migrants towards Italy sank during the night.
The coast guard said that by early morning 29 people, all men, had been rescued from the sea 33 nautical miles (38 miles, 61 kilometres) east southeast of Karpathos, a southeastern island between Rhodes and Crete.
Two of those rescued were plucked from the sea by an air force helicopter and flown to Karpathos, while the other 27 were picked up by a passing tanker ship and were taken to the island of Kos.
No further survivors had been located by Wednesday afternoon, although the search efforts were continuing.
Those rescued said the boat had set sail from the Antalya area on the southern Turkish coast and had been heading to Italy when it ran into trouble during the night.
Strong winds and rough seas in the area were complicating search and rescue efforts, while an air force helicopter, two navy ships, a coast guard vessel, and three merchant ships were participating in the operation on Wednesday afternoon.
"The search is continuing with unreduced intensity," said Shipping and Island Policy Minister Giannis Plakiotakis, under whose jurisdiction the coast guard lies.
"The protection of human life is our daily concern and absolute priority," he said, adding that more than 6,000 people had been rescued in 145 search and rescue operations over the past two years.
A video released by Greek authorities showed two people being winched to a helicopter in a night-time rescue and then walking to a waiting ambulance once they had been airlifted to shore.
The most common sea route for asylum-seekers from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa has been from Turkey to nearby Greek islands.
But with Greek authorities increasing patrols in the Aegean, and facing repeated and persistent reports of summarily deporting new arrivals to Turkey without allowing them to apply for asylum, many are now skirting the Greek islands and attempting to take the much longer, and more dangerous route directly to Italy.
Greek authorities deny they carry out illegal summary deportations of asylum-seekers.
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