NEWS

Search continues for missing Libya evacuees in Crete

The coast guard and navy were still looking on Sunday afternoon for more than a dozen people who had earlier jumped from a Greek ferry as it was docking at the port of Souda, Crete, after transporting some 1,200 evacuees from conflict-ridden Libya.

Three people died as a total of 49 of those on board abandoned the ship. The victims were from Bangladesh. The coast guard said the evacuees used a rope to descend from the ship because they feared that they would be sent back to their home country if their papers were checked by Greek authorities.

The Ionian King was carrying a total of 1,288 evacuees from Libya.

South Korea’s embassy in Athens issued a statement identifying the three men who drowned as employees of the Daewoo Engineering and Construction Company. It expressed condolences for their deaths and said that their evacuation had been organized by Daewoo with the aim of helping the men return to their homeland.

Three of the 49 were found safe and well shortly before 3 p.m. Earlier, a group of 30 evacuees, all thought to be from Bangladesh, were found by coats guard officers. Eighteen of them are being treated at Crete?s naval hospital for hypothermia and dehydration.

A helicopter, three coast guard boats, two navy vessels and some private boats were helping in the search operation on Sunday.

Greece has been very active in helping people leave Libya over the last couple of weeks and has ferried more than 10,000 Chinese workers to Crete so they could fly back to their homeland.

Greece?s efforts earned the praise of the US State Department this week. It is thought that Greek ferry companies will earn about 20 million euros from their participation in the evacuation operation.