A fishing boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized and sank off the southern coast of Greece early Wednesday, killing at least 59 people, according to the Greek coast guard.
A large search and rescue operation was launched in the area. Authorities said 104 people have been rescued so far following the nighttime incident some 75 kilometres southwest of Greece’s southern Peloponnese region.
Four of the survivors were hospitalised with symptoms of hypothermia. It was unclear how many passengers might remain missing at sea, the Greek coast guard said.
Six coast guard vessels, a navy frigate, a military transport plane, an air force helicopter, several private vessels and a drone from the European Union border protection agency, Frontex were taking part in the ongoing search.
The Italy-bound boat is believed to have sailed from the Tobruk area in eastern Libya. The Italian coast guard first alerted Greek authorities and Frontex about the approaching vessel on Tuesday.
Smugglers are increasingly taking larger boats into international waters off the Greek mainland to try to avoid local coast guard patrols.
On Sunday, 90 migrants on a US-flagged yacht were rescued in the area after they made a distress call.
Separately on Wednesday, a yacht with more than 70 migrants on board was towed to a port on the south coast of Greece’s island of Crete after authorities received a distress call.
Our journalists are working on this story and will update it as soon as more information becomes available.