Athens, Jan 22 (IANS) At least 41 people lost their lives in two tragedies in the Aegean Sea on Friday, when boats carrying refugees and migrants from the Turkish shores to the Greek islands capsized, the Greek Coast Guard said.
According to the latest toll, among the victims who drowned in the cold waters near the islands of Kalolimnos and Farmakonissi were 17 children, Xinhua reported the Coast Guard as saying in a statement.
Rescue operations are underway, as survivors have told authorities that there were many more people on one of the boats. The number of missing was still unclear.
In the first incident off Kalolimnos, the Coast Guard has so far recovered 34 bodies – among them the 11 children – and rescued 26 people. Survivors said there were 50 to 100 people on board.
In the second tragedy off Farmakonissi, the Greek Coast Guard recovered the bodies of six children and one woman after rescuing 40 survivors. The survivors told authorities there were no other passengers missing from their boat.
Despite the bad weather, people fleeing war-torn regions in the Middle East and Asia and economic migrants are still risking their lives to cross over from Turkey to Greece and continue their journey to other European countries aspiring a better future.
Turkish smugglers have reduced to 500 euros ($541) per person the fee for a ticket on one of the old boats provided to the desperate refugees, according to Greek authorities. In the summertime, the price for a ticket reached up to 2,000 euros per passenger one way.
More than 800,000 people reached Greek shores in 2015, according to official data. The Greek Coast Guard last year rescued about 95,000 people, while more than 200 perished in the Aegean – half of them children.