17 died when a migrant boat sank off a Greek island

Athens: The death toll rose to 17 when a a boat carrying refugees and migrants sank off the coast of Greece’s Aegean island of Lesbos on Thursday.

Most of the victims were young women of African origin, Greek coast guard spokesman Nikos Kokalas told Greek national broadcaster ERT.

A rescue operation is underway as an unidentified number of people are still missing, Xinhua news agency reported.

Approximately 40 people were on board when the accident occurred, according to survivors, he added.

Meanwhile, 80 people were rescued off the island of Kythira in southern Greece after another boat crashed into rocks and sank on Wednesday evening, according to a coast guard press release. Survivors said approximately 95 people were on the boat. No information was given on their nationalities.

Both rescue operations were hampered by strong winds reaching Category 8 on the Beaufort scale, authorities said.

“We express sorrow for the tragic incidents in our seas that have resulted in deaths and put the lives of many people at risk,” government spokesman Yiannis Oikonomu said at a regular televised press briefing on Thursday.

More than 1 million people have entered Greece since 2015, mainly via the Aegean Sea, seeking refuge in Europe from war zones and extreme poverty. Hundreds died at sea, according to Greek authorities.

In March 2016, the European Union (EU) and Turkey reached an agreement aimed at stemming the flow, which has yielded results, but thousands of people still land on the Greek islands every year, officials said.

(IANS)

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