, ANKARA, Sep 6 – Fifty-eight people drowned on Thursday after a boat carrying illegal immigrants trying to reach Europe capsized in waters off western Turkey, the Anatolia news agency reported, citing a local official.
“The death toll from the accident is 58,” said Ardahan Totuk, acting governor of Izmir province.
Forty-three bodies were recovered from the sea and 15 others were retrieved from the boat locker, he added.
The official said one more immigrant was rescued alive, bringing the number of survivors to 46 including two crew members – the captain and his mate – who were detained.
The boat hit the rocks after it left Ahmetbeyli on the western coast of Turkey close to Greek islands, Tahsin Kurtbeyoglu, a local official of Menderes district in Izmir province, told the private NTV television.
The nationalities of the immigrants including children were not immediately available, he noted, but said most of them were from Arab countries. NTV said the survivors were from neighbouring Iraq and Syria.
The boat’s final destination was not known, but the number of its passengers was estimated to be 104, said Totuk, adding that the search and rescue operation was still continuing.
Turkey has become a hub of illegal immigrants who aspire to cross into European countries for better lives.
Neighbouring Greece is the busiest entry point for migrants trying to reach the European Union.