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AA 15/09/15: 22 die as refugee boat sinks off Turkey's Aegean coast

249 people rescued by Turkish Coast Guard from sinking Kos-bound vessel.

At least 22 people have died after a boat carrying refugees, mostly women and children, sank early Tuesday in the Aegean Sea off Turkey's southwestern Mugla coast.

The incident occurred off Bodrum Bay in Mugla as a 15-meter day-trip vessel 'Aricioglu', packed with hundreds of refugees, sailed to the nearby Greek island of Kos, Mugla Province Governor Amir Cicek told Anadolu Agency.

Turkish Coast Guard Command said 249 people have been rescued so far after a patrol plane spotted the sinking vessel two kilometers (one mile) south of Orak Island. Five search and rescue ships were dispatched.

The 22 dead bodies were found in the vessel during a search of the ship by rescuers and divers from the Bodrum Marine Rescue Association.

The bodies were taken aboard coast guard ships and transferred to the mortuaries of nearby hospitals in the district. Those rescued were brought to the Coast Guard Command office in Bodrum; the tourist vessel will be towed to the city once it has been searched.

Teams from Turkey's Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority and gendarme squads were also dispatched to Bodrum marina upon the order of the Mugla Governor's office.

An investigation has been launched into those involved in the trafficking of the refugees into Europe.

Bodrum is a favored spot for refugees trying to reach Kos, with just a few kilometers of sea between the Turkish mainland and the isle -- one of the shortest stretches between Turkey and EU territory.

Two die as dinghy sinks

In a separate incident later on Tuesday, at least two people died as a dinghy carrying 13 Syrian refugees to the Greek islands sank in the Aegean Sea off the Turkish coast.

Teams from the Turkish Coast Guard Aegean Regional Command spotted refugees floating on the water as they were patrolling the Doganbey coast in western Izmir province's resort district of Seferihisar.

They rescued 11 people from the sinking boat, two of whom were transferred to hospital for medical care.

According to the International Organization for Migration, there have been more than 2,700 migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean Sea this year, 103 of them in the waters between Greece and Turkey. Greece has received more than 309,000 refugees this year, mostly Syrians fleeing the civil war.

On Sept. 2, a dozen Syrian refugees, including eight children, drowned after their boat sank en route to Greece. The image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach caused worldwide shock at the fate of desperate refugees.

On Sunday, 15 children were among 34 people drowned when their boat, carrying at least 100 refugees, capsized five kilometers (three miles) east of the Greek island of Farmakonis, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency reported.

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