Dozens missing after two boat incidents off Greek islands

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Survivors say 68 people were on board when a vessel that set sail from Turkey went down between Evia and Andros.

Greek authorities have launched a search and rescue operation for dozens of missing refugees after a boat they travelled on from Turkey overturned and sank in rough weather. The vessel capsized overnight on Monday between the islands of Evia and Andros. The coastguard said on Tuesday that nine men had been found on an uninhabited rocky islet in the Kafirea Straits between the two islands, which lie east of the Greek capital, Athens.

Authorities, there had been a total of about 68 people on board the sailing boat when it sank, and they had initially set sail from Izmir on the Turkish coast.

Authorities were initially alerted by a distress call in the early hours of Tuesday from passengers saying the boat they were on was in trouble, but they did not provide a location.

At least one person died, and 65 were missing after two migrant boats capsized off Greece, the coastguard said today, with rescuers facing gale-force conditions.

A body was recovered during the afternoon off the Greek island of Samos. Yesterday evening, a vessel from the Turkish coast capsized with 12 people on board, according to statements from the four survivors.

The body was recovered by a Turkish coastguard vessel sailing in the area and had illegally entered "Greek waters", Greek port police said this evening.

The Turkish vessel "attempted to damage a Greek patrol boat" and "obstructed" the work of the Greek coastguard and an Italian European Border Agency (Frontex) vessel participating in the search and rescue operation for missing persons off Samos, the port police said.

Greek maritime minister Ioannis Plakiotakis had accused Turkey of "trying to provoke an incident" in the Aegean Sea, a venue for recurring clashes between the neighbours.

In the early hours of this morning, a similar shipwreck took place off the island of Euboea, near Athens, as the area was buffeted with winds of more than 50 kilometres per hour.

Initially, the Greek coastguard found nine people, Afghans, Egyptians and Iranians, on a nearby island.

This evening, another man was safely recovered from the island, bringing the number of survivors to ten.

"According to the statements of the survivors, a total of 68 people were on board the ship," coastguard spokesman Nikos Kokkalas told state-run Ert television.

According to the Greek coastguard, the search for the 58 people presumed missing will continue at dawn tomorrow.

Greece, Italy and Spain are destinations for people fleeing Africa and the Middle East in search of safety and better lives in the European Union.

The Greek coastguard has said it rescued about 1,500 people in the first eight months of the year, compared to fewer than 600 last year.

Greek officials say people smugglers now often take a longer and more perilous route south to bypass EU patrols in the Aegean in a bid to reach Italy.