Red Cross volunteers on the Mediterranean island of Crete are scrambling to prepare food and shelter for around 700 migrants being slowly towed to land on a stricken freighter by a Greek navy frigate.
It’s part of a major effort to rescue the disabled cargo vessel which suffered engine failure on Wednesday in gale force winds.
The 300 metre-long ship, the Baris is expected to arrive at the port town of Ierapetra in the south of the island.
Nikos Nestorak is head of the local Red Cross volunteer team: “Our main concern is to offer them (the migrants) preliminary care, to register them and to find, as soon as possible, somewhere for them to stay under the best conditions possible.”
A local gym is being made ready as a place of temporary shelter for the migrants. It’s not clear where they are from but initial coast guard indications suggested passengers included Syrians and Afghans headed for Europe.
Conditions on board the freighter are said to be cramped and basic and medics on Crete are on standby. There have been no immediate reports of serious health problems among the passengers, although one pregnant woman was taken by helicopter to a Cretan hospital.
Greece has appealed to the European Union for help in dealing with the growing influx of migrants and refugees seeking a better life in Europe. It’s estimated that the number trying to enter Greece was expected to triple this year to more than 30,000.