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Search continues for dozens of migrants missing off Greek coast

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By Euronews  with AP
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Rescued migrants arrive at a port on the southeastern Aegean Sea island of Kos.
Rescued migrants arrive at a port on the southeastern Aegean Sea island of Kos.   -   Copyright  Hellenic Coast Guard

Greek authorities are still searching for dozens of missing migrants after a boat sank off a southeastern island.

Between 25 and 45 people are unaccounted for after the incident on Wednesday near Karpathos.

A Greek navy vessel and three nearby merchant ships were involved on the second day of the search and rescue operation.

The coast guard said on Wednesday that 29 people -- all men from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran -- had been rescued from the sea.

The boat had been carrying them from the Turkish coast of Antalya to Italy. Weather conditions in the area were rough, with strong winds and choppy seas, authorities said.

Survivors say there had been roughly 60 to 80 people on board the vessel when it capsized in the Aegean Sea.

Two of those rescued were plucked from the sea by an air force helicopter and flown to Karpathos, while the remaining 27 were picked up by a merchant vessel and transported to the island of Kos.

“The search is continuing with unreduced intensity,” said Greek shipping and island policy minister Giannis Plakiotakis. “The protection of human life is our daily concern and absolute priority.”

Turkey’s coast guard said it was also conducting its own search in their region of the Aegean.

Separately, the Turkish coast guard said Wednesday it had also rescued five people after a boat carrying migrants sank around 75 kilometres south of the Greek island of Rhodes. 

The most common sea route for asylum-seekers from the Middle East, Asia and Africa has been from Turkey to nearby Greek islands.

Greek authorities have increased patrols along this route, amid reports of illegal instances of asylum seekers being deported. Greek authorities have denied the claims.

According to the UN, 3,231 people died while attempting to reach Europe through the Mediterranean last year.

Meanwhile, Greek police believe that three migrants were killed after being hit by a passenger train near the northern town of Drama. The men had reportedly been sleeping on the train tracks when they were struck.

The train driver was arrested and has been released while an investigation is conducted.