Woman and child drown in migrant shipwreck off Greece

Eight survivors taken to hospital after boat from Turkey sinks near island of Leros

Two people died and eight were rescued after a ship got into trouble near the Greek island of Leros. AFP
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A woman and child have drowned and 41 people were rescued after a boat carrying migrants from Turkey sank off the Greek island of Leros, Greece's coastguard said on Sunday.

Among the survivors, six children and two adults were transferred to hospital in Leros, the coastguard said, adding that search operations were continuing.

Three rescue boats and a helicopter were at the scene but progress was being hampered by strong winds and choppy seas in the Mediterranean.

A fisherman raised the alarm after discovering the lifeless body of the woman floating at sea, local press reported.

A coastguard spokeswoman said a child found unconscious at sea was revived in hospital and had a weak pulse. Health officials did not respond to inquiries about the health of the migrants in hospital.

Witnesses reported seeing an inflatable boat carrying about 40 migrants, including children and people with reduced mobility.

"Unfortunately, once again we have innocent victims who have lost their lives because of the criminal behaviour of traffickers," Greece's Merchant Navy Minister Yannis Plakiotakis said in a statement.

The number of migrants being rescued has risen as more attempt to reach Greece from Turkish shores on shoddy and overcrowded boats despite rough winter seas.

A two-month-old baby died after a shipwreck off the Greek island of Lesbos in December.

Leros lies close to the Turkish coast. Boats loaded with migrants — many inflatables but also yachts and speedboats — regularly leave Turkey bound for Greece, with some even attempting to reach Italy, irrespective of the weather.

To date, 2,246 people fleeing war and poverty are known to have lost their lives in the eastern Mediterranean since 2014, statistics from the International Organisation for Migration shows.

Updated: February 05, 2023, 3:00 PM