ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A sailboat carrying dozens of migrants that had sent a distress signal in rough weather off the southern tip of mainland Greece has been safely towed to port, Greece’s coast guard said Friday. There were no reports of any injuries or missing people.
A broad search and rescue operation was launched after the boat issued the distress call while sailing around 3 nautical miles (3.4 miles, 5.5 kilometers) south of Cape Maleas in the southern Peloponnese region, the coast guard said.
The vessel was safely towed to a nearby port early Friday morning and was found to have been carrying 75 people — 69 men and six women. Authorities did not have any immediate information on the passengers’ nationalities, where the boat had set sail from or what its intended destination was.
Thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa, Asia and the Middle East attempt to enter the European Union through Greece each year.
Most head to eastern Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast in small rubber dinghies, but increasingly others are opting to take larger boats, such as sailboats and yachts, which sometimes seek to bypass Greece and head straight to Italy. Both routes can be deadly.
Earlier this month, at least 27 people drowned in two separate incidents of migrant boats sinking in Greek waters.
In one, 18 people died when a boat that had set sail from Turkey sank off the eastern Aegean Sea island of Lesbos. Hours earlier, a yacht carrying about 100 migrants sank in a gale, killing at least nine people and leaving six missing.