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78 Killed, Plenty Missing After Boat Sinks In Greece

A fishing boat carrying migrants capsized and sank off the coast of Greece on Wednesday, authorities said, leaving at least 78 people dead and many dozens feared missing in one of the worst disasters of its kind this year.

Coast guard, navy and merchant vessels fanned out for a vast search-and-rescue operation that also included a plane and a helicopter.

Authorities said 104 people have been rescued so far after the boat sank overnight in international waters some 45 miles southwest of Greece’s southern Peloponnese peninsula. The spot is close to one of the deepest areas of the Mediterranean Sea.

It was unclear how many passengers might still be in the water or trapped in the sunken vessel, but some initial reports suggested hundreds of people may have been on board.

Four survivors were hospitalized with symptoms of hypothermia. At the southern port of Kalamata, dozens of others were taken to sheltered areas set up by the ambulance services and the United Nations Refugee Agency to receive dry clothes and medical attention.

The Greek coast guard said 78 bodies have been recovered so far.

The Italy-bound boat is believed to have sailed from the Tobruk area in eastern Libya. That country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Human traffickers have benefited from the ensuing instability and made Libya one of the main departure points for people attempting to reach Europe on smugglers’ boats.

The Italian coast guard first alerted Greek authorities and the European Union border protection agency, Frontex, about the approaching vessel on Tuesday.

The United Nations migration agency, IOM, said initial reports suggested up to 400 people were on board. A network of activists said it received a distress call from a boat in the same area whose passengers said 750 people were on board — but it was not clear if that was the vessel that sank.

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