37 killed as boat hits rocks, cap­sizes o≠ the coast of Turkey

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Suzan Fraser

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.

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