Greece: Smuggling boats capsize, 4 migrants drown

Associated Press
Map locates Samos, Greece, where two boats laden with immigrants sank; 1c x 2 1/8 inches; 46.5 mm x 53 mm;
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Map locates Samos, Greece, where two boats laden with immigrants sank.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A yacht and a dinghy crammed with immigrants trying to enter Greece capsized Monday in the eastern Aegean Sea, leaving at least four dead from drowning and more than 20 others missing, authorities said.

It was the third such fatal accident in the country this year.

It was not immediately clear what caused the overloaded craft to overturn before dawn, about four miles north of the island of Samos near the Turkish coast.

The Greek coast guard said 36 people — 32 men, three women and a child — were pulled out of the sea alive. The bodies of two women, a man and a boy were recovered from the sea.

The death toll was expected to rise significantly since divers were not yet able to get into the overturned yacht. The nationalities of the migrants were not yet known.

Survivors told the coast guard between 60 and 65 people had been on the 10-meter (30-foot) yacht and the two-meter (six-foot) dinghy that had set off from Turkey.

"We can't give a precise number of missing people with any certainty," Coast guard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos told The Associated Press.

The child and one man rescued from the accident were flown to Athens to be hospitalized. The capsized craft were being towed to Samos.

"The search is still under full steam, we will examine the vessel that is being brought to land at Vathy on Samos to see whether there are bodies in the cabin," Lagadianos said.

Coast guard vessels, fishing boats and two search and rescue helicopters were combing the area for more survivors. A nearby cruise ship helped for several hours, then was cleared to continue its journey.

Despite the deep financial crisis that brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy four years ago, the country remains a major entry point for people from poor or war-torn parts of Asia and Africa seeking a better life in the 28-nation European Union.

Fatal accidents are frequent as migrants risk the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey and prior to Monday's capsize 21 people had drowned since the beginning of the year.

Over the weekend the Greek coast guard rescued about 250 immigrants from the sea.

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