Greek authorities have confirmed this morning that 16 women of African origin died after boat sank in the Petalidi sea area, in eastern Lesvos, another 9 women -All African- have been rescued and taken to the Mytilini Hospital and about 15 people were missing.
The Coast Guard, the Greek Police, the Fire Brigade and the Army with the help of a Super Puma helicopter of the Air Force are operating in the area in search of missing persons. « All the residents here went down to the harbor to try and help, » Martha Stathaki, a local resident told The Associated Press.
« We could see the boat smashing against the rocks and people climbing up those rocks to try and save themselves. It was an unbelievable sight. »
The boat sank east of Lesbos, which lies close to Turkey’s Aegean coast.
« Strong winds blowing in the area are making our work difficult, » coast guard spokesman Nikos Kokkalas told state TV ERT earlier on Thursday.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, urged Europe to « work together, in a much more meaningful way » to prevent such incidents « And to completely neutralise the traffickers who are exploiting innocent people, desperate people, who are trying to reach the European continent on boats that are clearly not seaworthy » he said.
« The women who were rescued were in a full state of panic so we are still trying to work out what happened » Coast guard spokesman Nikos Kokkalas told state television.
« The women were all from African countries, aged 20 upward. … There is a search on land as well as at sea and we hope that survivors made it to land. »
Most migrants reaching Greece travel from nearby Turkey, but smugglers have changed routes in recent months in an effort to avoid heavily patrolled waters around Greek islands near the Turkish coastline. Greek authorities had rescued on Wednesday nearly 80 migrants, 18 among them were minors, whose boat sank in stormy waters near the island of Kythira in southern Greece.