Twelve drown after migrant boat sinks off Greek island of Paxos

One of the migrants on board boat with 50 people phoned emergency services

Greek authorities at the port of Preveza, northwestern Greece, where  12 migrants were found dead  after their boat took in water and sank. Photograph: Andriana Soldatou/via AP

Greek authorities at the port of Preveza, northwestern Greece, where 12 migrants were found dead after their boat took in water and sank. Photograph: Andriana Soldatou/via AP

 

The bodies of 12 people were recovered from the Ionian Sea on Saturday after a migrant smuggling boat sank near the island of Paxos in western Greece, the Greek Coast Guard said.

Authorities were alerted that the vessel was in trouble shortly after 9am, when one of the migrants on board phoned the emergency services.

No details were immediately available about the identities of the victims.

The cause of the sinking was also unclear, according to the coast guard spokesman, Nikolaos Lagadianos.

Weather conditions had been good, he said. But the boat may have been overloaded, he added, noting that about 50 people may have been on board.

A large search-and-rescue operation was under way, the coast guard said, with six coast guard vessels scouring the area alongside two Air Force helicopters, a Navy helicopter and four fishing boats.

The coast guard said that 21 people had so far been rescued.

The migrants were the first to drown in Greek waters this year. Their deaths follow scores more in recent years, although the rate of drownings here has fallen sharply since Turkey and the European Union signed a deal in 2016 to reduce migration.

Saturday’s sinking was unusual because it took place in the Ionian rather than the Aegean Sea, suggesting that the vessel was likely headed to Italy. – The New York Times Service