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Six dead, dozens missing as cargo ship sinks near Turkey
By HARMONIE TOROS, Associated Press
ISTANBUL, Turkey (January 1, 2001 10:03 a.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - A cargo ship smuggling illegal immigrants to Greece split in two Monday after slamming into rocks during a storm off Turkey's southern coast. At least six people were killed and dozens more missing and feared dead.
As many as 83 people - 10 crew members and 73 passengers - were on board the "Pati" when it foundered early Monday, its Greek captain told officials. After it broke in two, one half sank about 100 yards off the seaside resort of Kemer.
Rescuers recovered six bodies and managed to save 32 people, but 45 were missing, said Can Karaca, the official in charge of the rescue effort in the Mediterranean Sea. Gov. Ertugrul Dokuzoglu said up to 51 people were feared missing.
Rescue operations were called off Monday afternoon due to strong winds and high seas, Karaca said, adding that efforts were unlikely to resume before Tuesday.
Many of the missing were believed to have been locked in a cargo unit in the sunken half of the ship, Karaca said.
"There is little hope of finding them alive," Karaca said.
The ship suffered a mechanical failure in the early hours of Monday and sent out an SOS call, the Anatolia news agency quoted Kemer port officials as saying. Coast guards were unable to reach the ship by sea due to the storm, and the cargo ship drifted against rocks.
All the passengers were illegal immigrants trying to make their way to Greece, Karaca said, adding that survivors identified them as Pakistanis, Moroccans and Bangladeshis. Gov. Dokuzoglu said Indian and Afghani refugees also were believed to be on board.
The 400-ton cargo ship, which flew the flag of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, had sailed from the Turkish port of Antalya and was headed for Greece, said Dervani Yurtseven, an official of the shipping company that had hired the craft.
The crew included two Greeks, three Albanians, four Indians and one Georgian, Yurtseven told the Anatolia news agency.
Karaca said six crew members and 26 passengers had been rescued.
Thousands of immigrants from Asia and the Middle East cross Turkey on their way to European countries.
Monday January 1 3:42 PM ET Six Die As Georgian Ship Sinks Off Turkey
By Joseph Logan
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - At least six people died and nearly 50 were missing after a Georgian-flagged cargo ship bound for Greece with dozens of people in its hold split in two and sank off Turkey's Mediterranean coast on Monday, officials said.
Coastguard commander Can Karaca told reporters in Antalya that rescuers had saved more than 30 people and pulled six bodies from the water near the wreck of the Pati before high winds and cold weather forced them to suspend the search.
Those rescued included six of the ship's 10 crew and 10 Iranians and 16 Pakistanis who had been in the ship's hold and apparently hoped to enter Greece illegally. One person was taken to hospital for treatment, the coast guard said.
One section of the ship was stuck on offshore rocks which officials believed it had struck. Some of the missing were thought to be in a sunken portion of the vessel.
Antalya governor Ertegrul Dokuzoglu said the search would resume in the morning, but it was not clear how many survivors there might be.
``It's not clear how many people were on board, but our best estimate now is 83,'' he told the television station CNN Turk.
``Prosecutors have begun an investigation into where these people were picked up and who organized it. The ship left Antalya harbor registered as empty,'' he said.
Police have detained the ship's Greek captain for questioning. Dokuzoglu said investigators were trying to determine what had occurred in the nearly 24 hours between when the ship left Antalya's harbor and the accident on Monday morning.
``The distance between Antalya's harbor and Kiris (where the boat sank) is not 24 hours, and we are looking into what happened during that period,'' the state-run Anatolian news agency quoted him as saying.
Karaca said one of the Pakistanis had told rescuers he had been locked in the hold with about 50 other people.
The agency quoted an official of a shipping company that had a contract with the Pati as saying it had a gross weight of 399 tons and had sailed from Israel's Ashdod harbor on December 27 to take on a cargo of cement.
He said the ship had been unable to load the cargo because of an extended holiday and heavy snow in much of inland Turkey last week. It had then experienced mechanical problems on Sunday.
``Whether those problems were repaired or not I don't know,'' he said.
Shipwrecks off Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coasts are not uncommon, and some involve people from Asia, Africa and the Middle East trying to enter western Europe illegally.
Eight people drowned when a small boat ferrying illegal immigrants to Greece capsized in the Aegean in August.
Italian coastguards rescued a rudderless ship off southern Italy in November carrying 877 illegal immigrants, and officials said they believed the ship might have come from a Turkish port.
Most of those caught trying to enter Europe illegally through Turkey are fined a small sum and summarily deported.
-- Rachel Gibson (email@example.com), January 01, 2001