At least 15 migrants including eight children drowned when their boats capsized off the Greek islands of Kalolimnos and Farmakonisi early on Friday, a coast guard official said, as the refugee flow towards Europe continues despite the winter cold.
A search and rescue operation was ongoing off Kalolimnos, a small island in the south-eastern Aegean Sea close to Turkey’s coast, assisted by a helicopter and other vessels, the official said.
“Eight bodies have been recovered and 26 have been rescued and taken to the island,” the official said. “They were on a wooden sailboat. We do not yet have a clear picture of how many were on board.”
It was not clear why the vessel capsized, the official said.
In the sinking at Farmakonisi, a small island close to the Turkish coast, seven migrants drowned when their wooden boat crashed on rocks shortly after midnight.
“Six children and one woman drowned while another 41 migrants on the vessel managed to swim to the shore,” the coastguard official said.
Fleeing war, thousands of mainly Syrian refugees have braved rough seas this year to make the short but precarious journey from Turkey to Greece’s islands, from which most continue to mainland Greece and northward into wealthier western Europe.
Winter conditions make the journey even more dangerous.