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NNA – At least 700 migrants were believed to be on board a boat that capsized off the Greek island of Crete Friday, with hundreds still missing, the International Organization for Migration said.
“Over 250 people have been rescued from a shipwreck off Crete which is believed to have left Africa with at least 700 migrants on board,” the organisation said in a statement.
“People are in the water, boats crossing the area have thrown lifebuoys and are moving to save the migrants” the coastguard said.
She said a passing ship spotted the sinking vessel about 75 nautical miles south of Crete, Greece’s largest island, in the southern Aegean Sea.
The coastguard rushed two patrol boats, a plane and a helicopter to the scene while at least four ships crossing the area joined the rescue operation.
About half of the 25-metre-long boat is underwater, the spokeswoman said.
Some 204,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe since January, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.
It said more than 2,500 people have died trying to make the perilous journey this year.
The vast majority were killed crossing between Libya and Italy, as migrant arrivals to Greece have fallen sharply since the EU entered a controversial deal on March 20 with key transit country Turkey to stem the flow of migrants.
The Greek coastguard on 27 May intercepted a boat off Crete carrying 65 Syrian, Afghan and Pakistani migrants, and under the control of two suspected people traffickers – a Ukrainian and an Egyptian.–RTE