37 killed as boat hits rocks, capsizes o≠ the coast of Turkey
ankara, turkey » A boat carrying Syrians attempting the short sea journey from Turkey to Greece struck rocks and capsized at dawnon Saturday, causing at least 37 people to drown, among them several babies and young children.
Images of dead children on a beach on Saturdaywere another soul-searing reminder that Europe’s migrant crisis keeps destroying lives and families by the day.
They recalled the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying facedown on a Turkish beach last year. His story put an intimate face on the Syrian refugee crisis for people across theworld, prompting many to finally grapple with the magnitude of the suffering being inflicted by the war in Syria and treacherous attempts by many to find safety in Europe.
Saturday’s tragedy occurred when the boat capsized as dozens of people attempted the deceptively short crossing from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Lesbos barely 5 miles away.
More than 250 migrants have drowned already this month trying to reach one of Greece’s offshore islands, entry point to the European Union and its uncertain promise of refuge from war and poverty.
The Turkish coast guard said three ships, a helicopter and team of divers were searching the partially submerged craft and surrounding seas for more bodies as police on shore placed bodies, some 10 children among them, in black bags. Journalists at the scene tried to interviewsome of the 75 survi- vors, but police took them away in buses, some bound for a local hospital to be treated for hypothermia and other injuries, others into police custody for questioning.
A Turkish government official said by the late afternoon, rescuers had recovered bodies trapped inside the wreckage of the 56-foot boat, which sank shortly after departing from the shore near the Aegean resort of Ayvacik, raising the death toll to 37. Saim Eskioglu, deputy governor for the coastal Canakkale province that includes Ayvacik, said the boat “hit rocks soon after it left the coast.”
The state-run Anadolu Agency said 39 died.
“There were around 10 children among the dead,” Eskioglu told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “Four of them, unfortunately, were babies about 1 or 2 years old. We are deeply saddened.”
Eskioglu and Ayvacik’s mayor, Mehmet Unal Sahin, said most of the migrants were Syrians. The Anadolu Agency said the boat also bore natives of Afghanistan andMyanmar.
A private Turkish news agency, Dogan, said police arrested a Turkish man suspected of being the smuggler who organized Saturday’s failed sea crossing. Theman denied responsibility, telling the Dogan agency that he also had relatives on board.
Weather conditions did not appear to be a significant factor in the sinking.
Journalists at the scene said weather conditions Saturday on the Turkish coast were relatively mild, with light winds and temperatures around 54 degrees Fahrenheit.