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Death toll rises in migrant boat tragedy off Samos

22 bodies recovered; 36 rescued

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22 bodies have been recovered as coastguard vessels, fishing boats and two search and rescue helicopters comb the area for more survivors

A Hellenic Coastguard vessel (File photo) A Hellenic Coastguard vessel (File photo) At least 22 people have drowned and a dozen more are missing after two boats carrying undocumented migrants trying to enter Greece sank in the eastern Aegean Sea.

According to the coastuard, among the dead are 12 women, six men, three boys and 1 girl.

The coastguard said that the vessels got into trouble 4.5 nautical miles north of the island of Samos before dawn on Monday.

It said 36 people were rescued from the sea and have been taken to safety at Samos port. One survivor, a little girl, has been taken to Athens. 

Shipping tracking data shows the route taken by Azamara Journey criss-crossed a section of the sea during the night, possibly in the search for victims (Screengrab from MarineTraffic.com) Shipping tracking data shows the route taken by Azamara Journey criss-crossed a section of the sea during the night, possibly in the search for victims (Screengrab from MarineTraffic.com) According to initial information, the migrants were on board a modern yacht with four skippers, while a smaller yacht was following. The weather conditions in the area are described good with winds at Beaufort 5 (fresh breeze).

One of the bodies was spotted by a cruise ship, the Azamara Journey, which was in the area. Shipping tracking data shows that it criss-crossed a section of the sea during the night, possibly in the search for victims. The tracker data suggests the cruiser, which was on route to the Turkish resort of Kuşadası, changed course at 3.53am Greek time and returned to a point where it had been 20 minutes earlier. It then traversed the area a number of times before appearing to resume its journey at 7am. 

A fishing boat, the Apostolos, which also appears to have been involved in the rescue operation, left port at 5.51am, reaching the scene an hour later. According to Enet.gr, the first coastguard vessel reached the scene at 4am. 

A rescue operation is underway, involving two coastguard vessels, a vessel from the EU border agency Frontex and three fishing boats with the assistance of a Super Puma helicopter. A Greek navy ship is also on its way to offer assistance.
 
The nationalities of the migrants are unknown.

Note: This article was amended at 1.30pm on May 5 to convert UTC time into Greek local time. 

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