Search operation underway after 'horrific' migrant tragedy: Greece
More than 100 refugees were rescued and some are still missing from the capsizing boat that sank in the Ionian Sea.
Greece is reportedly pursuing a search for survivors one day after a boat capsized and sank in the Ionian Sea, with the number of victims feared to surpass a hundred.
The coastguard reported that so far, 78 bodies had been found, while relatives in the migrants' home nations anxiously searched for information about their loved ones.
"This could be the worst maritime tragedy in Greece in recent years," Stella Nanou of the UNHCR refugee agency said, as quoted by state broadcaster ERT.
"It's really horrific," UNHCR staffer Erasmia Roumana said as quoted by AFP at the port of Kalamata, stressing that the survivors were "in a very bad psychological situation."
"Many are in shock, they are so overwhelmed," she said. "Many of them worry about the people they traveled with, families or friends. They want to call their families and tell them that they arrived."
A coastguard spokesperson said as quoted by AFP that two patrol boats, a helicopter, and six other ships in the area were searching the waters west of the Peloponnese peninsula, which is considered one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean.
"I need my mother... This voice is inside my ears"
"One young man started to cry and said, I need my mother... This voice is inside my ears. And will always be inside," Red Cross nurse Ekaterini Tsata said as quoted by AFP.
According to authorities, 30 patients were hospitalized with pneumonia, dehydration, and weariness but are not at immediate risk.
Based on the testimonies of the survivors and the fact that no women or children have been found among the 104 persons who have been saved so far, there are suspicions that hundreds more are still missing.
A survivor told hospital doctors in Kalamata that he had seen a hundred children in the boat's hold, according to ERT.
"The fishing boat was 25-30 meters long. Its deck was full of people, and we assume the interior was just as full," coastguard spokesperson Nikolaos Alexiou said as quoted by ERT.
Government spokesperson Ilias Siakantaris on Wednesday said there were unconfirmed reports that up to 750 people were on the boat.
"We do not know what was in the hold... but we know that several smugglers lock people up to maintain control," he told ERT.
The survivors are mainly from Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan, the coastguard said, and are temporarily housed in a port warehouse to be interrogated by Greek authorities, who are looking for potential smugglers among them.
According to UN estimates, over 72,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in the Mediterranean countries of Italy, Spain, Greece, Malta, and Cyprus so far this year. Greece has traditionally served as a major transit point for individuals fleeing war, persecution, and poverty in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.