ATHENS, Greece (AP) — At least 42 people, including 17 children, died in two separate incidents of boats smuggling migrants or refugees sinking off two Greek islands overnight into Friday. Dozens survived, and a search and rescue operation was underway for more potential survivors.
In the first incident, a wooden boat carrying 49 people sank in the early hours off the small islet of Farmakonissi in the eastern Aegean. Forty of the passengers managed to make it to shore, while authorities rescued one girl and recovered eight bodies from the sea — those of six children and two women, the coast guard said.
A few hours later, a wooden sailboat carrying an undetermined number of people sank off the islet of Kalolimnos, south of Farmakonissi.
The coast guard rescued 26 people — 22 men and four women — and recovered 34 bodies — those of 16 women, seven men and 11 children. Coast guard vessels, a helicopter and private boats were searching for survivors. Authorities said the survivors' estimates of how many people had originally been on board varied from about 40 to 70, so it was unclear how many people were missing.
Greece has become the main gateway for people fleeing war and poverty trying to reach the European Union. More than 800,000 people entered Greece last year, mostly using unseaworthy boats to reach Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast. Hundreds have died in the attempt.