A major search and rescue operation in the eastern Aegean Sea was continuing after authorities received an emergency call late Tuesday from a vessel carrying an unknown number of migrants, Greece’s coast guard said early Wednesday.
A total of 96 people were rescued from the sea 21 nautical miles (31 kilometers, 24 miles) west of the small island of Halki, near Rhodes, the coast guard said Wednesday morning.
The migrants had been travelling in a yacht that was found partially sunk. It was not immediately clear what had caused the sinking, where the yacht had set sail for or what its intended destination was. A passenger used a cellphone to call a European emergency number late Tuesday.
The majority of those rescued were transported to the nearby island of Rhodes, the coast guard said, while some were taken to the smaller island of Karpathos.
The search and rescue operation was continuing, as it was unclear how many people had been on board the yacht, authorities said. Overnight, five coast guard vessels, military helicopters, a navy ship and five nearby vessels had participated. By Wednesday morning, the effort was scaled back to one coast guard patrol boat, one navy ship and two vessels sailing nearby.
Thousands of people continue to make their way clandestinely to the Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast, paying smugglers to ferry them in often unseaworthy, overcrowded inflatable dinghies or other vessels.