Several babies and children drowned on Saturday when a boat struck rocks and capsized en route to the Greek island
ANKARA (Turkey) – At least 30 people, including five children, drowned off Turkey’s western coast Saturday, Their boat was heading for Lesbos, one of the main Greek islands located just a few kilometers off Turkey’s Aegean coastline.
Among the casualties were people from were Afghanistan, Myanmar and Syria, while rescued migrants were hospitalized with hypothermia symptoms.
“Local people woke up to the sound of screaming migrants and we have been carrying out rescue work since dawn. We have an 80-kilometre-long coast just across from Lesbos, which is very hard to keep under control,” coast guards told.
The Turkish coast guard said three ships, a helicopter and team of divers were searching the partially submerged craft and surrounding seas for more bodies as police on shore placed bodies, some 10 children among them, in black bags.
Journalists at the scene tried to interview some of the 75 survivors, but police took them away in buses, some bound for a local hospital to be treated for hypothermia and other injuries, others into police custody for questioning.
“There were around 10 children among the dead, four of them, unfortunately, were babies about one or two years old. We are deeply saddened,” Eskioglu deputy governer for the province told Associated Press.
“I am afraid the numbers will rise as divers continue the search,” Mehmet Unal Sahin, the mayor of Ayvacik.
A private Turkish news agency, Dogan, said police arrested a Turkish man suspected of being the smuggler who organized Saturday’s failed sea crossing. The man denied responsibility, telling the Dogan agency that he also had relatives on board.
Of the more than 1.1 million refugees who arrived in the EU last year, more than 850,000 arrived by sea to Greece from Turkey, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Over the course of the year, 805 people died in the Aegean.
In the first month of 2016, more than 52,000 people arrived by sea in Greece and 218 have died off the Turkish coast, according to the IOM.