Migrant boat overturns near Greek island, at least 9 dead

Posted at 5:36 AM, Nov 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-17 06:52:33-05

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A plastic boat carrying migrants capsized in the eastern Aegean Sea near the Greek island of Kos on Tuesday, killing at least nine people including four children, authorities said, as thousands of people continued to risk the short sea crossing from Turkey in unseaworthy vessels.

The coast guard said it had rescued seven people and located nine bodies, three of which were found inside the overturned vessel. Crews were searching for two boys who were reported missing by survivors.

The dead were four children, four women and one man. It wasn't immediately clear how the boat overturned, or what the passengers' nationalities were.

Europe faces a massive refugee crisis, and Greece is the main point of arrival for people from the Middle East and Africa seeking a better life.

At least 660,000 people have made their way through the financially-troubled country so far this year, paying Turkish smuggling gangs for a berth on flimsy boat, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The vast majority don't stay in Greece, trekking north through the Balkans to seek asylum in more prosperous European Union countries.

More than 500 people have died or are missing since the beginning of the year in the Aegean.

The coast guard said Tuesday that over the past 24 hours it had rescued nearly 450 people who were in danger at sea, in 10 separate incidents near the eastern islands of Lesbos — which has recorded nearly 60 percent of all arrivals in Greece — Samothrace, Chios, Samos, Kos and Agathonissi.

Thousands more made it safely to the islands, with UNHCR saying on average that 3,300 people have been reaching Lesbos alone on a daily basis this month.