at least 79 people had lost their lives at press time as a result of the wreck of a small boat leaving Libya off the coast of Greece, as confirmed on Thursday by the Hellenic authorities. In addition, the Greek security forces confirmed having rescued 104 people in international waters located about 75 kilometers southwest of the Peloponnese coast. It is one of the worst disasters recorded in Mediterranean waters in a year 2023 marked from the beginning by tragedy.
The Greek Coast Guard and Navy, together with other commercial vessels, an airplane and a helicopter, participated in the search and rescue efforts. The survivors were treated by the emergency services and UNHCR in the Hellenic port of Kalamata. The place where the shipwreck occurred is close to one of the deepest points in the Mediterranean Sea. The chance of finding survivors is diminishing, Greek authorities announced Thursday. “Things are difficult. As time goes by, the chances diminish”a spokeswoman for the Greek Coast Guard told Efe.
Official sources quoted by the Greek newspaper ‘Ta Nea’ the ship departed from the Libyan city of Tobruk, In the east of the Maghreb country, with the aim of reaching the coasts, it transported up to half a thousand people, so it is more than likely that the number of deaths will increase in the next few hours, taking into account the number of missing persons.
For its part, the Hellenic Coast Guard, which reports the “extensive search and rescue operation” that takes place in the area, reveals that the Greek authorities were informed on Tuesday about the presence in the area of a boat that carried “a large number of foreigners on board”, according to Europa Press.
The body also made public that the fishing vessel was detected by a plane from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and two ships that passed through the area. “without [aquella] ask for help.”
“In consecutive phone calls by the Operations Room to the ship to give help, a negative response was received. During the afternoon, a Coast Guard ship approached the vessel to provide food, although the foreigners refused the supplies and any other assistance,” said the Greek Coast Guard, which further revealed that, although the occupants of the vessel ” They expressed their desire to continue their journey to Italy”, they remained close to her for an eventual delivery of aid. But, according to the account of the Greek Coast Guard, early Wednesday, the ship capsized and sank. At that time the search and rescue device began.
According to the Associated Press agency reported yesterday, the NGO Alarm Phone reported that it received a call on Tuesday night from a group of people on board a ship that was sailing through the same waters of the Mediterranean where the shipwreck occurred, although the organization is unable to confirm if it is the same vessel.
This year is being especially tragic in the waters of the central Mediterranean. In contrast to the situation on the Moroccan and Algerian coasts, the Tunisian and Libyan coasts – plunged into a scenario of instability for various reasons – have become the starting point for tens of thousands of young people trying to escape of the famine and violence that is shaking much of North and West Africa and the Sahel. The mafias have been taking advantage of the situation of anxiety that exists both in Libya, still deeply divided almost three years after the end of the last civil war, and in Tunisia, plunged into the worst political and economic crisis since the 2011 revolution.
Last Sunday, 90 migrants were rescued in the area on a yacht with an American flag after making a distress call. Also yesterday, a boat with 81 migrants on board was towed to a port in the south of the Greek island of Crete. Last year, according to data provided Tuesday by the International Organization for Migration, more than 2,400 people lost their lives or disappeared in Mediterranean waters last year, representing an increase of 16.7%. So far this year, the organization has already registered more than 1,160 victims. The arrival of good weather augurs a rebound in the desperate attempts of these young people to reach European soil in the coming months.