Fifty feared dead as two migrant boats sink off Greek holiday islands and survivors climb rocks to save themselves

Almost 50 people are feared to have drowned after two packed migrant boats sank near Greek holiday islands in strong winds.

Rescuers found 17 bodies – mostly young women – and searched for at least 30 other victims this morning.

Desperate shipwreck survivors climb sheer cliffs on the island of Kythira

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Desperate shipwreck survivors climb sheer cliffs on the island of KythiraPhoto credit: AFP
Islanders lowered ropes to help victims scramble to safety in 60 mph storms

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Islanders lowered ropes to help victims scramble to safety in 60 mph stormsCredit: AP
Bodies and debris were floating in the sea today after the boat sank last night

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Bodies and debris were floating in the sea today after the boat sank last nightCredit: AP

A dinghy with around 40 people on board sank overnight near Lesbos in the Aegean Sea, the coast guard said.

Nine women and one young man were rescued in a massive air and sea search operation.

Some found themselves in inaccessible areas of the island after heaving themselves over rocks.

Another 15 people were believed to be missing, although the exact number was not clear.

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“The rescued women were in complete panic, so we’re still trying to figure out what happened,” Coast Guard Officer Nikos Kokkalas said.

Among the bodies were 16 women and one man.

It is believed that all on board were of African descent and had set sail from a few miles off the Turkish coast.

It came hours after a sailing boat carrying at least 95 migrants sank off the island of Kythera, south of the Peloponnese peninsula.

The ship was smashed onto rocks in 100 km/h storms and “completely wrecked,” the Coast Guard said.

Islanders lowered ropes to help desperate survivors scale the sheer cliffs.

The victims were pounded by the raging waves as they waited their turn on a tiny rock platform at the bottom, reports say.

“All the residents here have gone to the port to try to help,” said islander Martha Stathaki.

“We could see the boat crashing against the rocks and people climbing on those rocks to try to save themselves. It was an incredible sight.”

A total of 80 people were rescued – including seven women and 18 children.

Most of them were asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 15 others are said to have gone missing overnight.

human cost

Kythira is about 250 miles west of Turkey on a route used by smugglers to bypass Greece and go straight to Italy.

The recent tragedies deepened a heated dispute over migrant crossings.

Greece has accused Turkey of breaking a 2016 deal with the EU to stop human traffickers operating from its shores.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi today said Turkey should “take immediate action to prevent all irregular departures due to the harsh weather conditions”.

He tweeted: “Already today many people have died in the Aegean Sea, people are drowning in unseaworthy ships. The EU must act.”

Shipping Minister Yannis Plakiotakis added: “Once again, Turkey’s tolerance of ruthless smuggling gangs has cost lives.”

Turkey denies the allegations and has publicly accused Greece of ruthlessly using force to push back migrant boats.

Speaking at the United Nations last month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Greece of turning the Aegean into a “cemetery” and held up photos of dead migrant children.

Smugglers have changed routes in recent months to avoid heavily patrolled waters around Greek islands near the Turkish coast.

Hundreds of thousands arrived on the island of Lesvos by boat from Turkey at the height of the Mediterranean refugee crisis in 2015-2016.

A total of one million refugees came to Greece after fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The numbers have fallen dramatically, but authorities say they have recently seen a sharp increase in entry attempts via the country’s islands and land border with Turkey.

Women are being treated in hospital after a second migrant boat sank off Lesvos today

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Women are being treated in hospital after a second migrant boat sank off Lesvos todayCredit: AP
The remains of a sailing boat that sank off Kythira in southern Greece with 95 on board

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The remains of a sailing boat that sank off Kythira in southern Greece with 95 on boardCredit: AP

https://www.the-sun.com/news/6379991/fifty-feared-drowned-migrant-boats-greek-holiday-islands/ Fifty feared dead as two migrant boats sink off Greek holiday islands and survivors climb rocks to save themselves

DevanCole

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