At least 79 killed and hundreds missing in Greece boat disaster

A fishing boat sank off the coast of southern Greece, killing at least 79 persons and requiring the rescue of more than 100. However, survivors have speculated that as many as 750 people were on board, with reports of 100 minors in the hold.   

Greece has proclaimed three days of mourning, citing it as one of the country's worst migrant tragedies ever. Authorities claim that their aid offers were rejected, but they are accused of not doing enough to assist.

The vessel sank approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles) south-west of Pylos at approximately 02:04 local time on Wednesday, according to the Greek coastguard. Frontex, the EU's border agency, reported spotting the vessel early Tuesday afternoon and promptly alerting Greek and Italian authorities. The coastguard subsequently reported that no passengers were wearing life jackets.

According to a timeline provided by the coastguard, initial contact with the fishing vessel occurred at 14:00 (11:00 GMT) and no request for assistance was made. The Greek shipping ministry made repeated contact with the vessel and was informed repeatedly that it simply wished to continue sailing to Italy. A ship flying the flag of Malta supplied food and water at approximately 18:00, and another vessel provided water three hours later, according to the report. Then, at approximately 01:40 on Wednesday, someone on the vessel reportedly informed the Greek coastguard that the vessel's engine had failed. 

The boat sank completely within ten to fifteen minutes after capsize, which occurred shortly after. The initiation of a search and rescue operation was confounded by high winds. Alarm Phone, an emergency helpline for migrants in distress at sea, complained that the coast guard was aware of the ship's distress for hours before any assistance was dispatched and that authorities were informed by various sources that the vessel was in distress. 

People may have feared encountering Greek authorities because they were aware of the country's "horrendous and systematic pushback practices," according to the report. Doctors Without Borders' Jérôme Tubiana stated on French radio that both European and Greek authorities should have intervened earlier. The boat is believed to have been traveling from Libya to Italy, with the majority of its passengers being males in their 20s.

According to local media reports, they had been traveling for days before being accosted by a Maltese cargo ship that provided food and water on Tuesday afternoon. Survivors estimated that there were between 500 and 750 people on board, and regional health director Yiannis Karvelis warned of an unprecedented tragedy: "The number of people on board was significantly higher than the boat's capacity." One survivor reported to a doctor at a hospital in Kalamata that he witnessed 100 children in the hold.

The captain of the coast guard, Nikolaos Alexiou, stated on television that the vessel had sunk in one of the deepest regions of the Mediterranean. The survivors have been transported to Kalamata, where many have been treated for hypothermia or minor injuries. More than 70,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe's border nations this year, with the majority landing in Italy, according to UN data.