26 migrants missing in sea off Greece after dinghy sinks: Coast guard

A Syrian refugee woman reacts as she and family members jump off a overcrowded dinghy after landing safely on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast (seen in the background), on Sept 19, 2015.
A Syrian refugee woman reacts as she and family members jump off a overcrowded dinghy after landing safely on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast (seen in the background), on Sept 19, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

ATHENS (Reuters) - Twenty-six migrants were feared missing early on Sunday after a dinghy carrying them sank off the Greek island of Lesbos, the coastguard said.

Their nationalities were not immediately known. A search-and-rescue operation was under way and 20 other people were pulled from the water, a coast guard spokesman said. "They (the migrants) told rescuers there were 46 people in the inflatable dinghy in total," she said.

Rescues and sinkings have become almost daily occurrences in the often choppy seas off Greece's eastern islands.

Hundreds of thousands of mainly Syrian refugees have braved the short crossing from Turkey this year, mainly in flimsy and overcrowded inflatable boats.

A girl believed to be five years old died on Saturday and 13 others were feared lost overboard after their boat sank off the island of Lesbos, a favoured entry point on a route that takes the migrants through the Balkans towards northern Europe.

Fifteen babies and children were among 34 who died a week ago when their boat capsized off the small island of Farmakonisi.