Greece: rescue operation of hundreds of people on a drifting boat

Athens, Greece — Greek authorities said a major rescue operation was underway off the southern island of Crete after a boat believed to be carrying hundreds of migrants lost direction and drifted in rough seas.

The Coast Guard said on Tuesday that passengers on the boat made a distress call to an emergency number overnight to alert authorities. According to passengers, there were about 400 to 500 people on board the vessel, the coast guard said, but added that the figure could not be immediately confirmed.

A Greek navy frigate, two Italian fishing vessels, an oil tanker and two cargo ships were taking part in the rescue operation, but strong winds and rough seas meant it was not possible to transfer any of the ship’s passengers in distress in the morning, says the coast guard.

It was not immediately clear where the boat carrying the migrants had departed from, what its intended destination was or what the nationalities of those on board were.

Tens of thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa try to reach the European Union every year by perilous sea journeys, most trying to reach Greece from the neighboring Turkey or taking a longer route to Italy.

ABC News

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