Almost 40 people drowned and 75 were rescued after a boat carrying migrants to Greece sank off Turkey’s western coast on Saturday, according to local officials and the Turkish Dogan news agency.
More than one million refugees and migrants arrived in the European Union last year and some 3,600 died or went missing, forcing the EU to mull suspending its Schengen open-borders area for up to two years.
The Turkish coast guard was continuing search and rescue efforts where the 17-metre boat carrying at least 120 people sank off the coast of Ayvacik, a town across from the Greek island of Lesvos, the Dogan news agency reported.
“I am afraid the numbers will rise as divers continue the search,” Mehmet Unal Sahin, the mayor of Ayvacik, told the CNNTurk news channel by phone.
“Local people woke up to the sound of screaming migrants and we have been carrying out rescue work since dawn. We have an 80-kilometre-long coast just across from Lesvos, which is very hard to keep under control.”
At least five of those who died were children, Dogan reported, while rescued migrants were hospitalised with hypothermia symptoms. It said the migrants were of Syrian, Afghan and Myanmar origin.