Refugee boat sinks off Turkey's western coast, 9 dead


Turkish Coast Guard rescues 21 refugees from sinking vessel in Aegean Sea

IZMIR, Turkey – At least nine people have drowned off the Aegean Sea coast of Turkey when a wooden vessel carrying refugees sank early Thursday, according to the Turkish Coast Guard.

Coast guard teams launched search and rescue efforts in the boat packed with refugees that capsized off Bademler area of Izmir’s Dikili district as it tried to reach Greek islands.

Twenty-one refugees were rescued, while nine others were found dead in the sea, the officials said.

Backed by two coast guard boats and two helicopters, the search is underway to find the missing 11 refugees.

Diving teams were also dispatched to the scene after survivors spoke of other refugees in the closed cabin of the semi-submerged vessel.

Four Turkish provinces — Canakkale, Izmir, Mugla, and Aydin — lying on the Aegean Sea facing Greek islands are prime spots for refugees leaving Turkey for EU countries.

Over the past year, thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean in a bid to reach northern and western Europe. Worsening weather conditions in the winter make the trip even more dangerous.

According to latest data from the International Organization for Migration, 800,000 refugees reached Europe via the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece, accounting for 80 percent of the refugees arriving irregularly in Europe by sea in 2015.

According to the UN’s refugee agency, more than 950,000 people in total have reached Europe by sea this year.