Greek authorities said that nine survivors of the boat that sank off Greece have been arrested and charged in the case. Several hundred people are missing.
The detainees are suspected of belonging to a smuggling gang that helped arrange the crossing. According to Greek broadcaster ERT, the nine are Egyptian citizens.
So far, 78 people have been found dead after the boat sank in international waters on Wednesday, about 75 kilometers southwest of Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula.
Greek authorities fear the real number of dead may be more than 500, many of them children.
The figures are based on information from survivors and estimates from the Greek Coast Guard.
Survivors said the 30-meter fishing boat Andriana was loaded with between 500 and 700 people. The boat may have sailed from Libya towards Italy.
Most of those on board were immigrants. Pictures taken by the Greek coast guard show that it was full of people on deck.
Overcrowding the ship, both internally and externally. We don’t know the exact number, but there sure were many.
This is what Captain Nikolaos Alexiou of the Greek Coast Guard told Kathimerini.
I offered help
Rescue teams reportedly offered to help the boat several times before it broke down, but the crew said they did not want to help.
It was said that the coast guard told the passengers via a loudspeaker that they were in danger and would not make it to Italy. The Coast Guard must have tied the overcrowded boat with rope.
Reportedly, some of the passengers, who did not want to be taken to Greece, lost the rope.
– This particular incident was revealed at 11 pm, several hours before the ship sank, Greek port authorities told Kathimerini.
How could that happen?
Greek authorities must have been notified of the ship’s presence around 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the Reuters.
The unclear trajectory that follows in the following hours raises questions about how hundreds of migrants could have drowned even if their ship was shadowed by the coast guard. As of 2 p.m., rescue crews had contacted the ship several times. At about 02:00 it capsized.
Adriana Tidona of Amnesty International told Reuters the organization was deeply concerned about the lack of clarity on the part of Greece.
– The Greek government had specific obligations to every passenger on the ship, who was clearly in distress, you say.
Alexio of the Hellenic Coast Guard rejected criticism that they should have intervened more forcefully.
– He said in an interview with the Sky radio station, that if some violent intervention had been made on a boat full of people, there would have been a risk that we would have caused drowning.
No further survivors were found
A major rescue operation was carried out by planes and boats on Wednesday and Thursday night, but no survivors were found. Greek authorities said Thursday evening that they had given up hope of finding more survivors and that the rescue operation was over.
The probability of capturing the ship is minimal. The boat can reach a depth of 5,000 meters below sea level.
The 104 survivors of the shipwreck are being transported to a refugee camp near Athens on Thursday and Friday. 26 of them will receive treatment first in hospital. Greek media reported that almost all of the survivors were young men.
After the sinking, there were large protests in several Greek cities, including Athens and Thessaloniki. Greece declared three days of national mourning.
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