(UnitedVoice.com) – Hundreds of people are missing, and at least 79 confirmed dead, after a migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean. The boat was trying to reach Italy when it sank in deep water. Survivors and bodies have been taken to Greece — but it’s likely most of the victims will probably never be recovered.
On June 14, a Greek coastguard vessel spotted an overloaded fishing boat passing through the country’s waters. The decrepit boat was between 80 and 100 feet long, and its decks were packed with illegal immigrants who had sailed from Tobruk, Libya and were attempting to get to Italy. Captain Nikos Alexiou of the Hellenic Coast Guard told reporters the patrol boat had shadowed the migrant boat for several hours and had repeatedly asked its passengers over the radio and by loudspeaker if they needed assistance. He said the migrants had rejected offers of help, probably because they feared being returned to Libya if they were rescued by Greece. Later that day, the boat suddenly capsized and sank around 50 miles off the port of Pylos.
A local councilor from the Greek port of Kalamata claims that, in fact, the Coast Guard had capsized the boat by attempting to tow it; one survivor has told the same story, claiming the guard “didn’t know how to pull the rope” — despite towing being a basic skill for coastguardsmen. Captain Alexiou says, “There was never an attempt to tie the vessel, neither by us nor any other ship.” The Coast Guard believes the boat’s engine failed, and panicking passengers moving around the decks capsized it. Once it rolled over, the boat sank in just 15 minutes.
So far, 104 survivors have been rescued, and 79 bodies have been recovered. However, rescuers believe the boat was carrying up to 750 people packed into a fishing boat that would usually have a crew of six or eight. Horrifyingly, survivors say there were around 100 children in the boat’s hold. It sank in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean, where the water is almost 17,000 feet deep; it’s unlikely the wreck, or the bodies trapped in it, will ever be recovered.
Thousands of migrants have died in the Mediterranean over the last few years as illegal immigrants pay unscrupulous traffickers for a place on overloaded, unsafe boats. Nine of the survivors from last Wednesday’s sinking have been arrested on suspicion of people trafficking.
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