Athens, Jun 15 (EFE).- Hopes of finding survivors from a fishing boat carrying hundreds of migrants and refugees that capsized in the Ionian Sea off the Greek coast were dwindling on Thursday, Greek authorities said.
At least 79 people are confirmed to have died in Wednesday’s accident, while 104 people have been rescued alive.
All of the survivors are male adults from Pakistan, Egypt, Syria and Palestine.
Greek media were reporting that between 500 and 700 migrants were on board the 30-meter-long fishing vessel.
Nine ships, including a frigate of the Greek Navy, and a helicopter were engaged in search operations in the area throughout Wednesday night and Thursday, without success.
The boat had set off for Italy from eastern Libya and capsized after capsizing early Wednesday morning southwest of the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece.
It is feared that hundreds of people who were in the hold went down with the ship, in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean.
According to survivors’ accounts reported by Greek media, there were around 100 minors inside the ship, as well as many women, while most of the men were on the outer deck of the vessel.
Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Alexiu told ERT public television that the engine of the overloaded boat suddenly stopped, before passengers moved from one side of the boat to the other, causing it to capsize.
“We will probably never know how many people exactly were on board the vessel,” he said.
In a statement, the Greek Coast Guard reported that the boat had been located around noon on Tuesday as it sailed in international waters south of the Greek peninsula.
According to the statement, authorities repeatedly offered to assist the trawler via satellite phone and private boats that were sent to the area, but those on board refused the offer of help, expressing their desire to continue the journey to Italy.
On Wednesday, three men who were among those rescued were interrogated at the port headquarters of Kalamata on suspicion of being alleged human traffickers. EFE