Disasters & Accidents

Greece arrests 9 survivors of shipwreck on migrant-smuggling charges

Athens, Jun 15 (EFE).- Nine Egyptian men who survived the capsizing in the Ionian Sea of a trawler carrying hundreds of migrants were arrested Thursday, a Greek television network said.

The suspects face charges of conspiring to traffic undocumented migrants, state-run ERT reported.

The nine men in custody had a website offering passage to Europe for between 4,000 and 6,000 euros per person, according to the network.

At least 79 people are confirmed to have died in Wednesday’s accident, while 104 people have been rescued alive, all of them adult males from Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine.

Word of the arrests came hours after Greek authorities said that hopes of finding more survivors were dwindling.

Passengers told Greek media outlets that the 30-meter-long trawler sailed from Egypt and made a stop in eastern Libya before setting course for Italy

Greek media were reporting that between 500 and 700 migrants were on board, but the International Organization for Migration (IOM), estimated that the vessel was carrying as many as 750 people.

The boat capsized early Wednesday morning southwest of Pylos, Greece.

It is feared that hundreds of people who were in the hold went down with the ship, which sank in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean.

Survivors told Greek media that around 100 minors were inside the ship, as well as many women, while most of the men were on the outer deck.

Nine ships, including a frigate of the Greek Navy, and a helicopter were engaged in search operations in the area throughout Wednesday night and Thursday, without success.

Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Alexiu told ERT television that the engine of the overloaded boat suddenly stopped, before passengers moved from one side of the boat to the other, causing it to capsize.

“We will probably never know how many people exactly were on board the vessel,” he said.

Hans Leijtens, the executive director of the European Union’s Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), traveled Thursday to the Greek port of Kalamata, where the survivors were taken.

“I am in Greece today following the tragic event of Pylos, to meet Hellenic Coast Guard, to better understand what happened and to explore how Frontex can assist the national authorities. Saving lives will always be our priority,” the Dutch army general said on Twitter.

EFE dsp/ks/dr

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