Some 27 people, including children, are feared dead after their dinghy carrying about 48 people collided with a ferry boat off Turkey.
The accident, the second in as many days, happened close to the Turkish port of Canakkale in the early hours of Sunday. The boat was on its way to the Greek island of Lesbos.
By 3pm, 19 people had been rescued and one person confirmed dead. Another survivor managed to make his way to shore, suffering from hypothermia. But the remaining 27 are still missing.
Survivors said that their boat had collided with a three-decked ferry around 4:30 a.m. They tried to signal with some flashlights and mobile phones but it was too late.
The accident comes after another tragedy early on Saturday morning in which an eight-year-old girl drowned and between 10 and 12 people are feared missing when their small wooden boat capsized in the same waters off Lesbos after they ran out of fuel.
In the earlier incident overnight Friday, an 8-year-old girl drowned and between 10 and 12 other people were reported missing when their small wooden boat capsized off Lesvos after running out of fuel. That vessel was carrying some two-dozen people.
Both incidents were reported by the Greek Coast Guard, which mounted search and rescue operations around the eastern Aegean island some 6 kms off the coast of Turkey.
The relatively short stretch of sea between Turkey and Greece has become a populous passageway for asylum seekers crossing over to Europe, mostly from Syria. Almost 320,000 people crossed to Greece in this way so far this year, with 60% of this figure (192,000) accounted for since August.
“Compared to figures earlier in the summer, it’s almost doubled,” said Djamal Zamoum, the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) senior emergency officer in Lesbos. “Yesterday we saw 6,000 in just one day.”