ATHENS – Rescue crews searching for dozens of migrants missing from the sinking of a sailing boat in rough weather off an island near Athens were recovering mostly bodies on Wednesday, with only one more survivor — the 12th so far — plucked from the sea.
The coast guard said it had recovered 20 bodies by Wednesday afternoon. Thirty-six people were still reported missing.
A total of 12 people, all men, have been rescued and taken to the island of Evia, east of the Greek capital. Eleven of them — six Egyptians, three Afghans and two Iranians — were picked up on Tuesday, while a helicopter spotted the 12th in the sea on Wednesday.
The initial nine survivors, who had been picked up from an uninhabited islet shortly after the boat sank in the early hours of Tuesday, had told authorities they had set sail from Izmir, Turkey, with a total of 68 people on board.
The boat ran into trouble in very rough seas and eventually capsized and sank in the notoriously treacherous Kafireas Strait, between the islands of Evia and Andros.
The tragedy was the latest in a series of deadly migrant boat shipwrecks in Greek seas that have left dozens of people missing or dead.
A separate search and rescue operation continued for a third day Wednesday in the eastern Aegean off the island of Samos, which lies near the Turkish coast, for seven people still missing after a dinghy reportedly carrying 12 people capsized on Monday. Four people, who the coast guard said were all Palestinians, were rescued on Monday and one body was recovered on Tuesday.
Greek Shipping Minister Giannis Plakiotakis, who is also responsible for the coast guard, slammed Turkey on Tuesday for allowing “ruthless smuggling rings to send people to their deaths, with Greece saving as many as it can.”
Thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa, Asia and the Middle East attempt to enter the European Union through Greece each year.
Most make the short but often perilous crossing from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands in often unseaworthy inflatable dinghies. Others opt to attempt to circumvent Greece in overcrowded sailboats and yachts heading straight to Italy.
At least 27 people drowned in two separate shipwrecks last month. In one, 18 people died when a boat that had set sail from Turkey sank off the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos. In the other, a yacht carrying about 100 people sank in a gale, killing at least nine and leaving six missing.
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