UPDATED: Boat with 700 From Alexandria Capsizes off Crete

A boat with about 700 people has overturned about 75 nautical miles south of Crete. The Hellenic Coastguard said it rescued 342 migrants so far.

Four bodies were recovered from the site, which is in international waters. Sources in Egypt, say, the boat is likely a 25-metre vessel that left from Alexandria.

The Greek coastguard said four ships and two helicopters were involved in the operation. The rescue is taking place about 75 nautical miles south of Crete.

 It is not yet known how many people were on board originally, but in the past days Migrant Report has been receiving information concerning the impending departure of a vessel with 500 people, mostly from East Africa.

“The number of people in distress could be counted in the hundreds,” a spokeswoman for the coastguard told the AFP news agency.

“People are in the water, boats crossing the area have thrown lifebuoys and are moving to save the migrants,” she said.

The sinking vessel was first spotted by a merchant vessel, which is now headed for Italy with 242 people on board.

In April, another vessel that had left from Egypt capsized. A group of 41 migrants who were rescued from a drifting vessel reported that as many as 500 people may have died when their vessel sunk at an unconfirmed location between Libya and Crete.

The accident is said to have happened half way through a transfer of migrants. A boat coming from Alexandria was being laden with more migrants coming from Eastern Libya, when one of the vessels capsized in a stretch of sea between Libya’s eastern city of Tobruk and Crete.

The incident is indicative of a growing build up of asylum seekers wanting to take a boat from Egypt to Italy. The crossing is the longest and most treacherous in the Mediterranean. Moreover, there are fewer search and rescue vessels operating in the area than there are in the Central Mediterranean.

So far this year, more than 2,500 people had died in 2016 trying to make the sea journey to Europe. About 1,000 people are feared to have perished in the last week of May alone.