MASSIVE TRAGEDY: 79 dead, hundreds missing as overloaded boat sinks

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At least 79 people have died and more than 100 have been rescued after their fishing boat sank off southern Greece.

At least 79 people have died and likely many more are still missing after an overloaded boat carrying migrants sank off the southern coast of Greece early Wednesday morning. According to Greek coast guard officials, the fishing boat capsized within 15 minutes after sending out a distress signal around 2am local time, roughly 50 kilometers southwest of the island of Efpousia.

Survivors described a horrific scene, with the vessel packed full of people— estimates range from 500 to 750 passengers including as many as 100 children trapped in the hold. “It is likely one of the biggest tragedies to take place in the Mediterranean,” said regional Greek health official Yiannis Karvelis.

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The Greek coastguard said they were alerted to the ship around midday on Tuesday but were refused requests for assistance by people onboard who wanted to continue on to Italy. Activist groups, however, accuse authorities of delayed action, saying Greek and EU officials were warned over 12 hours before the sinking but did not intervene urgently enough.

So far, coastguard officials say they have rescued 79 people alive but at least another 100 are feared dead. With reports of up to 750 passengers, however, the actual number of missing and dead could far exceed current estimates. Survivors have been hospitalized in Kalamata for hypothermia and injuries. Authorities have also detained three suspects accused of being the migrant smugglers who operated the doomed vessel.

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Most of those onboard are believed to have been from the Middle East, Asia or Africa and were seeking to reach Europe through Greece or Italy. The tragedy has put a spotlight on Europe’s fractured migration policies and responses, with Greek officials calling for an EU-wide solution to managing arrivals.

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