ATHENS, GREECE (AP) – A broad search and rescue operation was underway early yesterday for around 80 people on board a sailboat off the southern tip of the Greek mainland, authorities said.
The coast guard said the sailboat had run into trouble about 5.5 kilometres south of Cape Maleas in the southern Peloponnese region, with around 80 migrants on board.
Two coast guard patrol boats and three passing vessels were heading to the area, while the sailboat itself was being towed by a tug toward a nearby port, the coast guard said.
The weather was rough, with strong winds in the area, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or missing people.
Thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa, Asia and the Middle East attempt to enter the European Union through Greece each year.
Most head to eastern Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast in small rubber dinghies, but increasingly others are opting to take larger boats, such as sailboats and yachts, which sometimes seek to bypass Greece and head straight to Italy. Both routes can be deadly.
Earlier this month, at least 27 people drowned in two separate incidents of migrant boats sinking in Greek waters.
In one, 18 people died when a boat that had set sail from Turkey sank off the eastern Aegean Sea island of Lesbos.