Rescuers were searching for dozens of people still missing after two boats carrying migrants capsized in Greek waters late on Wednesday. At least 16 people are confirmed dead.
After a dinghy carrying about 40 people sank, the coast guard reported that 15 dead had been found close to the Lesbos island in the eastern Mediterranean. Three of the five passengers who were found on a rocky outcrop close to where the ship sank were among the five who were saved.
Several hundred kilometers (miles) to the west, close to the island of Kythira, where a sailboat carrying approximately 100 migrants hit rocks and drowned late Wednesday, a second rescue effort was initiated.
After that boat ran aground near the east coast of the island’s tiny port of Diakofti, authorities reported that 30 passengers had been saved. Winds in the region reached 70 kph (45 mph).
“We could see the boat smashing against the rocks and people climbing up those rocks to try and save themselves. It was an unbelievable sight,” Martha Stathaki, a local resident, told The Associated Press. “All the residents here went down to the harbor to try and help.”
Fire department personnel deployed ropes to assist migrants as they scaled seaside bluffs. Local authorities announced that a nearby school would be opened as a place for the rescued to stay. Divers from the Navy were also planned to show up on Thursday.
The majority of migrants entering Greece come from the neighboring country of Turkey, but smugglers have shifted their tactics recently in an effort to escape the heavily monitored waterways around the Greek islands that border Turkey.
Kythira is around 400 kilometers west of Turkey on a route that smugglers frequently used to skip Greece and travel straight to Italy.