A boat carrying illegal migrants sank off Turkey's Aegean coast and at least 51 died, an official said on Monday. The 15-metre boat is believed to have sunk in rough weather on Saturday off the coast of Seferihisar, a town south of the city of Izmir, local Govt Orhan Sefik Guldibi said. Six migrants were rescued and hospitalised, mostly for shock.
Citing survivors, the Coast Guard said a total of 85 people were aboard. Authorities feared the death toll would rise. "We are trying to keep our hopes alive but the possibility of more survivors is diminishing," Guldibi said.
"Boats and helicopters are searching for more migrants in the sea," Guldibi said. "Because of the strong wind, we think the bodies should be closer to the coast than where this boat sank. But they are searching far off the coast as well."
Two survivors were Palestinians, but there was no immediate information on the nationalities of the other migrants. Television footage showed a Coast Guard official pulling a body from the sea onto a beach.
A boat brought a dozen more bodies, which were placed in black body bags and lined along a dock. Strong winds and rough seas hampered rescue work, private NTV television reported.
Rescuers were also searching areas close to the Greek island of Chios for bodies, the report said. Thousands of immigrants from Asia and Africa enter Turkey illegally on their way to European Union countries in search of jobs and a better life.
Smugglers often take the migrants from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands on fragile and overcrowded boats, and such accidents are not uncommon.