ATHENS: Three children and a woman were killed on Sunday after a boat carrying around 40 migrants from Turkiye sank off the Greek island of Leros, Greece’s coastguard said.

Three rescue boats and a helicopter were continuing with search operations but were being hampered by strong winds and choppy seas after the migrants’ inflatable boat sank in the Mediterranean.

A fisherman raised the alarm after discovering the lifeless body of the woman floating at sea, according to local press reports. A total of 41 survivors were rescued, including six children and two adults who were transferred to hospital in Leros, the coastguard said. But doctors were unable to revive three of the children hospitalised — two boys aged about five and a girl of four, Greece’s Ana news agency reported.

The dead woman was around 20 years old, Ana said, adding that all the migrants aboard were from Africa.

“Unfortunately, once again we have innocent victims who have lost their lives because of the criminal behaviour of traffickers,” Greece’s Merchant Navy Minister Yannis Plakiotakis said in a statement.

The number of migrants requiring rescue has risen as more attempt to reach Greece from Turkish shores on shoddy and overcrowded vessels despite the rough winter seas. In December, a two-month-old baby died after a shipwreck off the Greek island of Lesbos.

Some 2,246 people fleeing wars and poverty are known to have lost their lives in the eastern Mediterranean since 2014, according to statistics from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2023

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