ATHENS (AP) — Greek authorities searched for a second day Thursday for dozens of missing migrants after the boat they were traveling in capsized in rough seas off an island in the country’s southeast.
A Greek navy ship and three nearby merchant ships were still searching Thursday for 30 to 50 people believed to be missing after the boat carrying them from Turkey’s Antalya coast to Italy capsized early Wednesday.
No other survivors have been located since the rescue of 29 men from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq shortly after the fire, which occurred about 33 nautical miles (61 kilometers; 38 miles) southeast of the island of Karpathos, the Greek coast guard said. Survivors told authorities that there were between 60 and 80 people on board the ship.
According to Athens, the incident occurred in international waters, but within Greece’s search and rescue area of responsibility.
Two of those rescued were pulled from the sea by an air force helicopter, which took them to Karpathos. The remaining 27 were rescued by a merchant ship and reached the island of Kos on Wednesday afternoon.
Coast Guard video showed the survivors moving from the commercial vessel to a department ship, which took them to port. There, dressed in white overalls and a mask, they disembarked. Many limped but all were able to walk without assistance, and headed for a waiting bus.
The cause of the capsizing was not immediately clear, but weather conditions in the area were poor, with strong winds and waves, authorities said.
The most common route for asylum seekers from the Middle East, Asia and Africa to reach Europe is from Turkey to the nearby Greek islands via the Aegean Sea.
But with increased Greek patrols in the area and repeated and persistent reports that new arrivals on Greek soil are immediately deported to Turkey without even being allowed to apply for asylum, many are avoiding the islands and taking a longer route and dangerous directly to Italy. The Greek authorities deny that they carry out such illegal deportations.
In an unrelated case, police also reported Thursday the death of three men who were struck by a passenger train near the town of Drama in northern Greece. The three deceased, believed to be migrants, were sleeping on the tracks when, at 06:20 in the morning, they were run over by a convoy heading from the city to Thessaloniki.
The train driver was arrested but was released while the facts are being investigated. In his statement to the police, the driver said that he did not have time to react after suddenly seeing the three men sleeping on the road.
Authorities were working to establish the identities and nationalities of the victims.
Those waiting to apply for asylum or continue moving towards northern Europe often walk between cities or towards borders following the tracks.