NICOSIA: At least 19 migrants drowned and up to 30 were missing Wednesday after their boat sank in the Mediterranean off the north of Cyprus, local security forces said.
The boat was carrying 150 people, reportedly Syrians, when it went down off the coast of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot-controlled portion of the island, which is only recognised by Ankara.
More than 100 people were rescued in a joint operation by Turkish Cypriot and Turkish coastguards after the boat sank off the village of Gialousa (Yeni Erenkoy in Turkish) on the panhandle Karpas peninsula.
At least 19 drowned and between 25 and 30 were still missing, the Turkish Cypriot security forces (GKK) said in a statement.
The Turkish coastguard said in a statement that the accident took place 30 kilometres (18 miles) off the shore of northern Cyprus. It said that 103 survivors had been rescued.
One was taken by helicopter to Cyprus in grave medical condition, the GKK added.
The other 102 were taken by boats to the port of Tasucu in Turkey’s southern Mersin region where they arrived Wednesday evening, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The 19 bodies of the dead were also taken to Tasucu for autopsies. One of the survivors was a three-year-old child, while a woman who drowned was pregnant, the Hurriyet newspaper said.
Search efforts were underway to recover the missing with commercial vessels also taking part, according to reports.