ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece rescued 144 refugees and recovered the bodies of 22, including four infants and nine children, after their boats sank in two separate incidents in the Aegean sea, the coastguard said on Friday.
The death toll from drownings at sea has mounted recently as weather in the Aegean has taken a turn for the worse, turning wind-whipped sea corridors into deadly passages for thousands of refugees crossing from Turkey to Greece.
The coast guard said 138 migrants were rescued and 19 drowned after their wooden boat capsized off the island of Kalymnos late on Thursday.
In a second incident off the island of Rhodes, three people, including a child and an infant, drowned and four were missing. Six people were rescued at sea, the coastguard said.
Some 16 people, including two infants and eight children, were confirmed dead and 274 people were rescued when a wooden boat they were on literally fell apart in rough seas off the Greek island of Lesbos late on Wednesday.
Greece has been a transit point for more than 570,000 refugees and migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East and beyond this year, triggering bickering among European nations at odds on how to deal with one of the biggest humanitarian crises in decades.
Refugees have reported smugglers offering ‘discounts’ of up to 50 percent on tickets costing between 1,100 to 1,400 euros to make the journey on inflatable rafts in bad weather, UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Thursday.
Perceptibly sturdier wooden boats cost more, at between 1,800 and 2,500 euros per passenger.
Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Toby Chopra