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13 dead in migrant boat collision with ferry off Turkey

20 September 2015, 16:46

Ankara - At least 13 migrants died off the coast of Turkey Sunday after the inflatable dinghy carrying them to Greece collided with a ferry, Turkish media reported.

Four children were among the victims of the accident involving a vessel carrying 46 migrants from the northwestern Turkish port of Canakkale to the Greek holiday island of Lesbos, the private Dogan news agency reported.

The Greek coastguard said it had rescued 22 people from a boat that sank off Lesbos, in what was suspected to be the same incident.

A survivor whose name was given as Haseen told Greece's state news agency ANA that the boat had collided with a ship.

"It was dark, we saw the ship bearing down on us. We tried to signal with flashlights and cellphones but they did not see us," he said.

Thrown into the water, the passengers were left fighting to keep their heads above water as a succession of big waves crashed over them.

"We lost the children. We could not see them in the dark," Haseen said.

A spokeswoman for the Greek coastguard told AFP that the migrants were spotted in the water southeast of Lesbos at around 0300 GMT, by a helicopter deployed by EU border agency Frontex.

"Two coastguard vessels went out and rescued 22 people, including three women and a child. The survivors said there had been 46 people on board, but later this changed to 48 people", she added.

A mother and baby, who had spent at least two hours in the water, were among the survivors, according to ANA.

Eight children under 12 were still missing from the group, which paid 1,000 euros ($1,130) a head to a Turkish smuggler for the journey, ANA added.

There was no information on the migrants' nationalities but the crossing from Turkey to Greece is the most popular route for Syrians, Iraqis and other people fleeing conflicts and misery in the Middle East and Asia to Europe.

Hundreds of migrants have died this year in perilous crossings in overcrowded boats.

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