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Calamity-stricken ship with 700 illegal immigrants and armed men near Crete

26 November 2014 / 16:11:33  GRReporter
3397 reads

Under extremely adverse conditions, the Greek coastguard, jointly with the national navy and air force, is carrying out a large-scale operation to rescue the disaster-stricken ship Baris sailing under a Kiribati flag. Today at noon, the ship – now towed by the Hydra frigate – is expected to dock at Ierapetra. The destitute immigrants will be accommodated at the shut-down 1,000-seat basketball stadium in town.

Early yesterday morning, the ship was detected at 60-70 nautical miles south-east of Ierapetra on the island of Crete. The first snapshots taken by the Greek authorities clearly showed over 700 illegal immigrants on board, with several armed men among them.

The Hydra frigate approached the afflicted ship with the intention of towing it to shore after an abortive attempt by a commercial ship to do so. A rescuer from the coastguard Super Puma chopper also landed on board to coordinate the operation. However, the Greek authorities are on full alert as it is not yet clear what exactly is happening on board the ship and who takes the decisions. According to military sources, the armed men among the immigrants are the traffickers, but it is not yet clear how strong the group is and what kinds of weapons they hold.

The passengers’ initial demand was to be towed to Spanish shores, but since adverse atmospheric conditions – the north/north-westerly winds of Beaufort force 8 and waves of up to 3 metres – made this impossible, they agreed to be towed to Crete. Sizeable Greek Navy forces have been concentrated in the waters around Ierapetra.

Seraphim Tsokas, General Secretary of Civil Protection at the Hellenic Ministry of Public Order, who is in charge of accommodating the 700 immigrants and providing them with first aid, is already in town.

 

And this is a photo taken by the rescue Super Puma helicopter:

According to the Greek authorities, the passengers on board the Baris are from Afghanistan and Syria but it is not yet known where, or when, the ship set sail.

Expect more details.

Tags: ship in distress with 700 illegal immigrants off Crete Ierapetra Baris Kiribati flag frigate Hydra armed traffickers
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