More than 30 migrants are believed to have died in two shipwrecks off the island of Kythera in south Peloponnese and Lesvos in the eastern Aegean Sea in less than 12 hours.
Residents of a Greek island pulled shipwrecked migrants to safety up steep cliffs in dramatic rescues after two boats sank in Greek waters, leaving at least 17 people dead. At least 28 people are still missing Thursday noon.
Video: Dramatic rescue Kythera via Greek Coast Guard
On Lesvos the Greek Coast Guard said it has recovered the bodies of 16 women and one young man. They were all recovered in the sea area east of the island, when the dinghy that was carrying around 40 people sank in the early morning hours of Thursday.
Ten women were rescued and some of them are hospitalized, local media stonisi reported.
UPDATE: The number of dead increased to 18 after one more body was recovered in the afternoon. !5 mor women have been rescued. The number of missing maybe be over 1o as some passengers said that not 40 but over 50 people were on board of the dinghy.
“The women who were rescued were in a full state of panic so we are still trying to work out what happened,” coast guard spokesman Nikos Kokkalas told state television ERT. “
The women were all from African countries, aged 20 upward. … There is a search on land as well as at sea and we hope that survivors made it to land.”
The second rescue effort was launched several hundred kilometers to the west, off the island of Kythera, where a sailboat struck rocks and sank at 9 p.m. on on Wednesday Check KTG report here.
Kokkalas said 80 people had been rescued while a search continued for as many as 15 still believed to be missing.
The dramatic rescue took place under adverse weather conditions, with winds blwoing with 7-8 Beaufort and gusts up to 10 B.
As migrants stranded on the steep rocks, Fire Service rescuers and local volunteers lowered ropes to help migrants climb up cliffs on the seafront.
Video: By the Greek Coast Guard
Survivors clinging to ropes were pulled to safety up steep cliffs as others were buffeted by waves as they waited their turn on tiny areas of rock at the bottom.
Videos by local media Kythera News
“All the residents here went down to the harbor to try and help,” Martha Stathaki, a local resident told The Associated Press. “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.”
The rescue operation continues on Thursday with the assistance also of divers.
Meanwhile, there is a huge need for clothes, food, medicines and other essential products and local authorities and volunteer groups appeal on the people to help, as there is no facility to host the rescued people. Check here on KytheraNews
Kythira is some 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Turkey and on a route often used by smugglers to bypass Greece and head directly to Italy.
The deaths occurred amid a heated spat between Greece and Turkey over the safety of migrants at sea with Athens accusing its neighbor of failing to stop smugglers active on its shoreline and even using migrants to apply political pressure on the European Union.
“Once again, Turkey’s tolerance of gangs of ruthless traffickers has cost human lives,” Greek Shipping Minister Yannis Plakiotakis said.
“As long as the Turkish coastguard does not prevent their activities, the traffickers cram unfortunate people, without safety measures, into boats that cannot withstand the weather conditions, putting their lives in mortal danger.”