79 people died after a Greek refugee boat sank, hundreds are missing | world news

An undated handout photo by the Hellenic Coast Guard shows migrants aboard a boat during a rescue operation before their boat capsized in the open sea off Greece, June 14, 2023. Hellenic Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY .

More than 500 people are believed to be on the boat when it capsized (Image: REUTERS)

The number of confirmed deaths after a refugee boat sank off the coast of Greece has reached 79.

It’s unclear how many people were on board the boat, but initial reports said there were hundreds on board when it capsized.

The fishing boat sank miles off the coast of Greece on Wednesday, and coastguards, navy, merchant ships and planes continued a search and rescue operation overnight.

An aerial photo released by the Greek Coast Guard showed dozens of people covering virtually every inch of the ship’s deck – and it is believed to have capsized after people abruptly sidestepped.

Greece’s Acting Prime Minister Ioannis Sarmas declared three days of national mourning, “with our thoughts to all the victims of the ruthless smugglers who take advantage of people’s misfortunes”.

Coastguard spokesman Nikos Alexiou told local TV: “The outside deck was full of people and we assume the inside (of the ship) would have been full too.”

“It looks like there was a shift among the people crammed on board and it capsized.”

Rescue attempts were reportedly rebuffed by the boat’s passengers, who insisted they continue to Italy.

Mandatory Photo Credit: Photo by Konstantinos Zilos/NurPhoto/Shutterstock (13968879h) A boat accident involving dozens of migrants sank on June 14, 2023 in the Ionian Sea in the city of Kalamata, Greece. At least 79 people died while more than 100 people were killed after being rescued after the shipwreck. Shipwreck in Pylos-Kalamata, Greece – June 14, 2023

The Red Cross supports the rescued (Image: Konstantinos Zilos/NurPhoto/Shutterstock)

Paramedics take an injured shipwreck survivor to an ambulance in the port of the city of Kalamata, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of Athens, on Wednesday, June 14, 2023. A fishing boat carrying migrants trying to reach Europe capsized and sank off Greece On Wednesday, authorities said at least 79 people were killed and many more missing in one of the worst disasters of its kind this year. (AP Photos/Thanassis Stavrakis)

25 people were hospitalized (Image: AP Photos/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Migrants arrive after a rescue operation at Kalamata port after their boat capsized in the open sea, in Kalamata, Greece, June 14, 2023. Eurokinissi via REUTERS ATTENTION TO EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVES. NO EDITORIAL USE IN GREECE. TPX PICTURES OF THE DAY

The rescued were brought ashore in Kalamata (Image: REUTERS)

Migrants rest at a shelter following a rescue operation after their boat capsized in the open sea, in Kalamata, Greece, June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Stelios Misinas

Those rescued were housed in a warehouse (Image: REUTERS)

Ioannis Zafiropoulos, deputy mayor of the southern port city of Kalamata, where survivors were taken, said there could have been “more than 500 people” on board.

The boat sank about 45 miles southwest of southern Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula, near the deepest point of the Mediterranean Sea, which could complicate the search for the sunken vessel.

Twenty-five survivors were hospitalized, and another 70 were housed in a large warehouse in Kalamata with donated sleeping bags and blankets.

The Coast Guard said no one on the ship had life jackets on and many of the people pulled from the water could not swim.

So far, 79 bodies have been recovered.

The boat is believed to have traveled to Italy from the Tobruk region of eastern Libya.

Contact our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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Justin Scaccy

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