, NICOSIA, Sep 25 – Cypriot emergency services launched a rescue mission Thursday for about 300 people thought to be Syrian refugees mostly women and children on a boat stricken in rough seas, the government said.
The authorities were responding to “a radio distress signal” due to “bad weather” from the boat about 50 nautical miles southwest of the tourist hub of Paphos, the defence ministry said.
“On board the ship are about 300 people (mostly women and children) that require recovery and rescue because of bad weather conditions in the area,” it said in a statement.
“The ship probably comes from Syria with civilian refugees.”
Aerial photographs released by the ministry showed a large fishing trawler overloaded with people in heavy seas.
Cypriot state radio reported that two police patrol boats and a cruise ship had been dispatched to the location after a warning that the boat was in danger of sinking.
The defence ministry said that state medical facilities had been notified to prepare for an influx of people from the boat, without saying anything about their condition.
In August 2012, seven Syrians, including two children, drowned when the boat which they were sailing to Cyprus to escape the conflict in their homeland sank off the island’s northern coast.
Cyprus is located about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the shores of war-ravaged Syria.