ATHENS (Reuters) -Three asylum-seekers drowned and dozens more were feared missing after a boat believed to be carrying as many as 50 people sank off Greece’s Folegandros island, the coast guard said on Wednesday.
Search crews rescued 12 people, most of them from Iraq and Syria, from the sunken boat’s tender and took them to the nearby island of Santorini. The bodies of three men were also taken to the island, authorities said.
Citing testimonies from survivors, the coast guard said the boat was carrying between 32 to 50 people. It sent out a distress signal late on Tuesday after suffering engine failure, and then started taking in water.
Greece is one of the main routes into the European Union for asylum-seekers arriving from Turkey but most cross on small rubber boats to Greek islands close to the Turkish coast.
Folegandros, part of the Cyclades cluster of islands in the middle of the Aegean, is not along the typical route.
The search and rescue operation began late on Tuesday and involved four coast guard boats, five ships sailing in the area, two helicopters and a C-130 airplane.
(Reporting by Karoina Tagaris and George Georgiopoulos; editing by Toby Chopra and Grant McCool)