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Greece: Sailing boat with 100 migrants sinks in strong winds


ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A large-scale rescue operation was underway off a southern Greek island where a sailboat carrying up to 100 migrants struck rocks and sank in high winds Wednesday night. authorities said.

The coast guard said its vessels, private boats and a rescue helicopter were involved in the effort off the coast of Kythira island, about 225 kilometers (140 miles) south of Athens.

Authorities said seven people had been rescued so far, but gave no further details about the missing. They said the sailboat hit rocks off the port of the eastern island town of Diakofti. Winds in the area were up to 70 kph (45 mph).

“We could see the boat crashing into rocks and people climbing over those rocks to try and save themselves. It was an incredible sight,” Martha Stathaki, a local resident, told The Associated Press. “All the residents here went down to the port to try to help.”

Fire service rescuers lowered ropes to help the migrants scale the cliffs on the boardwalk. Local authorities said a school would be opened in the area to provide shelter for those rescued.

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Most of the migrants arriving in Greece travel from neighboring Turkey, but smugglers have changed routes in recent months in an effort to avoid the heavily patrolled waters around Greek islands off the Turkish coast.

Kythira is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Turkey and on a route often used by smugglers to avoid Greece and head straight for Italy.

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