NEWS

Five migrants trying to reach Greece drown off Turkish coast

five-migrants-trying-to-reach-greece-drown-off-turkish-coast

At least five people drowned off the Turkish coast early Tuesday as they tried to reach the Greek islands, underscoring the deadly risks taken by migrants making even short crossings to Europe in overcrowded smugglers' boats.

Turkish coast guards unloaded five body bags at the harbor of western Turkey tourist town Bodrum as rescued migrants, one man clutching his head in his hands, sat on the wharf.

Medical staff carried a wailing young boy, an oxygen mask around his neck, and a man to ambulances.

About 20 migrants also were rescued and taken to a harbor in the nearby town of Turgutreis.

Details of the identities and nationalities of the dead were not immediately available.

Ayberk Olcay of the Bodrum Sea Rescue Association, who was involved in the rescue operation, said a baby's body also was recovered and three more people, including a child, were rescued.

It wasn't the only rescue in the Aegean Sea on Tuesday.

A Doctors Without Borders medical team heading for the Greek island of Leros chanced across a boat carrying 40 migrants, some of whom were in the sea, picked them up and took them to the Greek island of Kos.

Men hugged and kissed one another as the group, which included young children, reached Kos.

"It shows that there is a need to increase the capacities in the search and rescue operations here," Doctors Without Borders field coordinator Elisa Galli said.

The numbers of migrants attempting perilous sea crossings to Europe continue to climb despite the risks.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said over the weekend that as of Saturday, 103,000 migrants had been rescued at sea and brought to Italy in operations coordinated by the Italian coast guard. Along with other migrants landing in Spain and Malta, that means more than 243,000 people have crossed so far this year, compared to 219,000 for all of 2014. Greece has reported more than 135,000 arrivals from Turkey this year.

Greece's coast guard said they had rescued 576 migrants in 23 search and rescue operations off the coasts of the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonisi and Kos in the 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday morning.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that at least 2,300 people have died this year trying to cross to Europe.

It is unclear how many people may have died between Bodrum and the Greek island of Kos, which is only four kilometers (2.5 miles) from Turkey at its closest point, making it one of the shortest routes across the Aegean.

[AP]