ATHENS – Greek authorities say a search and rescue operation is ongoing for a second day for dozens of migrants missing after the boat they were on sank in rough seas off a southeastern Greek island.
A Greek navy vessel and three nearby merchant ships were still searching Thursday for between around 25 to 45 people believed missing after the boat that had been carrying them from the Turkish coast of Antalya to Italy capsized in the early hours of Wednesday.
Greece's coast guard said it had not located any further survivors since 29 men from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq were rescued shortly after the boat sank about 33 nautical miles (38 miles; 61 kilometers) southeast of the island of Karpathos and about 38 nautical miles south of Rhodes. The survivors told authorities there had been a total of between 60 and 80 people on board the boat.
Two of the survivors were plucked from the sea by an air force helicopter and flown to Karpathos, while the remaining 27 were picked up by a merchant vessel and transported to the island of Kos, where they arrived Wednesday afternoon., the coast guard said.
Separately, the Turkish coast guard said Wednesday it had rescued five people after a boat carrying migrants sank 40 nautical miles (46 miles, 74 kilometers) south of the Greek island of Rhodes. It said Turkish authorities directed a merchant vessel to the area, which picked up 27 survivors.
Neither country’s coast guard mentioned rescue efforts by the other, and the Turkish coast guard wouldn't specify where the merchant ship sailed to after it had picked up the 27 people, but they were likely those mentioned by the Greek coast guard on board the ship that sailed to Kos.
Greek authorities said the capsizing in international waters was within Greece’s search and rescue responsibility area. Turkey's coast guard said it was conducting its own search in the Turkish search and rescue region.
Video released by the Greek coast guard showed the 27 survivors being transferred from the merchant ship to a coast guard boat which then transported them to Kos. There, dressed in white coveralls and wearing masks, they disembarked, many of them limping but all walking unassisted, and headed to a waiting bus. Another video released by the Greek coat guard on Wednesday showed two men being winched from the sea into a helicopter, and later walking to an ambulance after arriving on land.
It wasn't immediately clear why the boat sank, but weather conditions in the area were rough, with strong winds and choppy seas, authorities said.
The most common sea route for asylum-seekers from the Middle East, Asia and Africa has been from Turkey to the nearby Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
But with Greek authorities increasing patrols in the area and facing persistent reports of summarily deporting new arrivals to Turkey without allowing them to apply for asylum, many are now attempting the much longer, and more dangerous, route directly to Italy. Greek authorities deny they carry out illegal summary deportations of asylum-seekers.
In a separate case in northern Greece, police said three men were killed after being hit by a passenger train near the northern town of Drama. The three, believed to be migrants, had reportedly been sleeping on the train tracks when they were hit at 6:20 a.m. by a train heading from Drama to Thessaloniki.
The train driver was arrested and released while an investigation is conducted. The driver told police he didn't have time to react after suddenly seeing the three men sleeping on the tracks.
Authorities were working to establish the identities and nationalities of the three men.
People hoping to claim asylum or make their way further into Europe often use train tracks to walk between cities or towards borders.
Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul, and Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, Greece, contributed to this report.
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