(Crete, Greece) – On Friday, the Greek coast guard reported that they rescued hundreds of migrants from a ship that was sinking somewhere off the coast of Crete in the southern Mediterranean. There still may be a large number of people who are unaccounted for related to the wreck, and it is impossible to tell how many there were who weren’t rescued. It is also unclear where the ship originated from. Greek Coast Guard’s spokesman, Nikos Lagkadianos said, “From some scattered accounts we have heard from those rescued they set off from the African coastline.” However, this has yet to be confirmed.
Greek authorities have said that around 340 people were successfully rescued from the wreck, but four bodies were also found near the wreck in an area that is around 75 nautical miles away from Crete. That area actually falls under Egypt’s search and rescue territory. However, it is the Greek Coast Guard that made the rescue. There is no set figure as to how many people were missing from the wreck and when asked, the Greek Coast Guard refuses to speculate. Some Greek media outlets are speculating that there were around 500 – 700 people originally on the ship, but no one actually knows for sure. The Coast Guard had some help from area merchant ships. Most of those who were rescued were taken to Italy, while the rest were taken to Egypt, Turkey, and Malta.
Migrants and refugees began arriving in Greece last year in 2015. Although many have successfully made it to the shores, more than 2000 people have died. The death toll has risen in the past few weeks thanks to a large wave of people who are now attempting to get to Europe from Northern Africa. Islands such as Kos and Lesvos have housed thousands of refugees and there are now state-run camps located throughout Greece that are filled with migrants who are in search of a better life. Thousands of Syrian refugees used that particular route to cross the sea from Turkey to Greece in inflatable boats until the EU and Turkey reached an agreement where Turkey promised to prevent this from happening. Now that the weather has gotten warmer, the Mediterranean has seen an increase in migrant crossings over the past few weeks. When boats get blown off course as they are trying to reach places like Italy after leaving Libya, they usually end up in the sea near Crete. This is the third incident over the past week involving rescues in the waters near Crete or landings on the island.