NEWS

Six dead in Adriatic mystery

In what appears to have been a migrant-smuggling operation that went badly wrong, a Greek man who had been listed missing at sea last week was found off Italy yesterday at the helm of a rubber dinghy containing six corpses and five live illegal immigrants. The Merchant Marine Ministry, which had mounted a sea-and-air search for the 9-meter Sakis, on which Panayiotis Liolios, 28, from the western Greek port of Preveza, had been declared missing by his relatives on Thursday, said the inflatable was located at 3.30 p.m. yesterday by the Russian-flagged tanker Brozers 4, whose captain contacted the ministry’s rescue center. The Sakis was 19 miles (30 km) southeast of Santa Maria di Leuca, at the eastern end of the Gulf of Taranto. A ministry statement said there were six people alive on the inflatable – including Liolios – and six corpses. The nationality or identity of the passengers was not known. All were taken on board by the Russian tanker, which was heading for an Italian port. Italian reports, quoting local port authorities, voiced fears that more people may have been on the Sakis. According to state RAI television, coast guard patrol boats and helicopters were searching the Adriatic – where high winds were blowing on Saturday – for victims or survivors. The ANSA news agency said the Greek coast guard had notified Italian authorities that a small boat had sailed from either Greece or Albania on Thursday with 30 people on board. But it was unclear whether the Greek coast guard had been referring to the Sakis, which according to Liolios’s family had left Preveza on Wednesday, possibly heading for the islands of Paxi or Corfu. The narrow stretch of sea between Albania and Italy is routinely used by migrant and drug smugglers.