Greece Launches Extensive Search for Missing Migrants as Death Toll Reaches 78

by Lucas Garcia
Greek shipwreck

In southern Greece, rescue workers tirelessly continued their efforts to locate possible survivors after a tragic maritime incident, while transferring the deceased migrants’ bodies to refrigerated trucks. The incident involved a migrant boat packed with individuals attempting to journey from Libya to Italy, which ultimately capsized and sank in deep waters off the Greek coast. The scale of the catastrophe has left hundreds of people still unaccounted for.

So far, 78 bodies have been recovered, and the search and rescue teams managed to save 104 passengers, including Egyptians, Syrians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and Palestinians. Among them were eight minors, primarily men. However, authorities express deep concerns that hundreds more may have been trapped below deck. If this is confirmed, the incident would rank among the most devastating tragedies ever recorded in the central Mediterranean.

Following an overnight count of the bodies, authorities revised the confirmed death toll from 79. Erasmia Roumana, head of a delegation from the United Nations Refugee Agency, met with the rescued migrants in a storage hangar in the southern port of Kalamata and stated, “The survivors are in a very difficult situation. Right now, they are in shock.” The survivors are eager to reassure their families of their well-being and continuously inquire about those still missing, many of whom are friends and relatives.

In response to the disaster, Greece has declared three days of mourning, and political campaigning for an upcoming general election on June 25 has been temporarily suspended. A Supreme Court prosecutor has also initiated an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

Expressing her deep sorrow, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, vowed to enhance cooperation between the European Union and neighboring countries to combat migrant smugglers. Nonetheless, human rights organizations argue that such crackdowns compel migrants and refugees to embark on longer and riskier routes to reach safe havens.

During the search operation off Greece’s Peloponnese region, which took place overnight and into Thursday morning, no additional bodies or survivors were found. Admiral Nikos Spanos, a retired Greek coast guard official, remarked, “The chances of finding more survivors are minimal. We have encountered similar old fishing boats from Libya before: they measure around 30 meters (100 feet) in length and can carry 600-700 people when crammed. However, they are far from seaworthy. To put it simply, they are floating coffins.”

Coast guard experts speculate that the boat may have sunk due to fuel depletion or engine failure, exacerbated by the movement of passengers inside the vessel, causing it to tilt and ultimately capsize.

Aerial photographs released by Greek authorities before the incident depicted people densely crowded on the boat’s deck, with the majority not wearing life jackets.

Gianluca Rocco, the head of the Greek section of the UN migration agency IOM, lamented, “We are witnessing one of the biggest tragedies in the Mediterranean, and the numbers announced by the authorities are devastating.” Since 2014, the IOM has recorded over 21,000 deaths and disappearances in the central Mediterranean.

According to Greece’s coast guard, Italian authorities alerted them to the presence of the trawler in international waters. Their attempts, as well as those of merchant vessels, to assist the boat were persistently declined by the individuals on board, as they insisted on continuing their journey to Italy.

Among the survivors in southern Greece, 29 remain hospitalized, mostly due to symptoms of hypothermia, while eight have undergone questioning by coast guard investigators. Government officials have announced that the survivors will be relocated to a migrant shelter near Athens later on Thursday or Friday.

The bodies of the deceased migrants have been transported to a morgue outside Athens, where DNA samples and facial photographs will be collected to initiate the identification process. Health officials have confirmed that the embassies of the countries involved will provide assistance.

The incident occurred close to the deepest part of the Mediterranean Sea, where depths of up to 17,000 feet (5,200 meters) pose challenges for locating a sunken vessel.

According to initial reports, the IOM suggests that up to 400 people may have been on board the boat. However, a network of activists claims to have received a distress call from another boat in the same area, whose passengers stated that it carried 750 individuals.

The Mediterranean’s most catastrophic shipwreck in recent memory transpired on April 18, 2015, when an overcrowded fishing boat carrying migrants collided with a freighter off the Libyan coast. Only 28 people survived, while forensic experts determined that the original passenger count was approximately 1,100.

Reporting from Athens, Greece, contributed by Paphitis. Renata Brito, a writer from Big Big News in Barcelona, Spain, also contributed to this report.

For more news on global migration, visit https://bigbignews.net/migration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about migrant boat sinking

What happened in Greece regarding the migrant boat sinking?

A fishing boat carrying migrants capsized and sank off the Greek coast, resulting in dozens of deaths and leaving hundreds of people missing. The incident sparked a major search and rescue operation.

How many bodies have been recovered so far?

At least 78 bodies have been recovered from the sunken migrant boat.

Were there any survivors?

Yes, rescuers managed to save 104 passengers, including Egyptians, Syrians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and Palestinians. Among them were eight minors.

What is the cause of the sinking?

The boat may have sunk due to fuel depletion or engine failure, possibly aggravated by the movement of passengers inside the vessel.

What is the response to the tragedy?

Greece has declared three days of mourning, and political campaigning for an upcoming election has been suspended. The European Union has pledged to strengthen cooperation to combat migrant smugglers. However, human rights groups raise concerns about the impact of crackdowns on forcing migrants to take more dangerous routes.

How many people are still missing?

Authorities fear that hundreds of people may still be missing from the incident.

Has there been any investigation into the circumstances of the deaths?

Yes, a Supreme Court prosecutor has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

What are the challenges faced in the search operation?

The search operation faces challenges due to the deep waters and the possibility that the sunken vessel is located in the deepest part of the Mediterranean Sea.

How does this incident compare to previous tragedies in the Mediterranean?

If confirmed, this incident would rank among the worst ever recorded in the central Mediterranean. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has documented over 21,000 deaths and disappearances in the region since 2014.

Are there any concerns about the safety of the boats used by migrants?

Coast guard experts have highlighted the perilous condition of these old fishing boats used by migrants, describing them as “floating coffins” and emphasizing their lack of seaworthiness.

More about migrant boat sinking

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Bookworm123 June 15, 2023 - 3:55 pm

my heart breaks for these migrants. they risk everything for a better life. EU needs to do more to prevent these tragedies!

SoccerFanatic June 15, 2023 - 5:34 pm

greece in mourning. suspending elections, that’s a big deal. politicians should focus on saving lives, not campaigning. tragic event.

LilySmith June 16, 2023 - 2:06 am

omg, so many ppl dead. boat capsize is so sad. hope greece can save more ppl. europe needs to help too!!

JohnDoe27 June 16, 2023 - 4:50 am

tragedy strikes again. migrant boat sank in greece, so sad. many ppl missing. hope they find survivors!

EagleEye June 16, 2023 - 10:25 am

i heard they reject help! boat ppl wanted to go to italy. stupid decision! now so many missing. very dangerous situation.


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