Greece: A sailboat with 100 migrants sinks in strong winds

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

The Coast Guard said its ships, private boats and a rescue helicopter were involved in the effort off the island of Kythira, some 225 kilometers (140 miles) south of Athens.

Officials said seven people had been rescued so far, but gave no further details of the missing. They said the sailboat hit rocks off the harbor in the village of Diakofti in the east of the island. Winds in the area were blowing up to 70 km/h (45 mph).

“We could see the boat crashing against the rocks and people climbing over those rocks to try to save themselves. It was an amazing sight,” local resident Martha Stathaki told The Associated Press. “All the locals here have come down to the port to try to help.”

Fire rescuers lowered ropes to help migrants scale cliffs on the seafront. Local officials said a school in the area would be open to provide shelter for those rescued.

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

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

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