(Update 2: upgrades death toll, edits lede and headline)
Athens, June 14 (EFE).- At least 78 people have drowned after the fishing boat they were traveling in sank off the Greek coast on Wednesday, officials said.
A spokesperson for the coast guard told Efe that the death toll was expected to increase as search and rescue operations continue, wiht hundreds feared missing.
So far 106 people have been rescued, 14 of whom have been taken to hospital in the city of Kalamata, some 250 kilometers southwest of Athens.
According to local media, at least 400 migrants of undetermined nationalities were aboard the boat of 30 meters in length.
Greek President Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou visited Kalamata to inquire about the incident.
Officials have deployed 10 vessels, a navy frigate, a helicopter, and a drone from the European Union (EU) border agency Frontex to assist in the search and rescue efforts.
The boat was traveling from Libya to Italy when it capsized and sank off the southwest coast of the Peloponnese peninsula.
According to a coast guard statement , the vessel was spotted on Tuesday afternoon sailing in international waters south of the Greek peninsula.
Later in the day, a coast guard vessel approached to offer assistance after observing a large number of people on the ship’s outer deck.
However, the statement said, those on board declined the offer, expressing their willingness to continue their journey to Italy.
Hours after the incident on Wedneday, the coast guard rescued an additional 80 refugees from a drifting sailboat south of the island of Crete.
For years, people smuggling networks have utilized vessels such as sailing and fishing boats to reach the southern Italian mainland from Turkey or Libya, as it provides them with easier access to central European countries.
Just last Sunday, Greek authorities rescued 90 migrants from a stranded boat in southern Greece. EFE