At least 14 people, including seven children, have drowned after a migrant boat sank off Turkey's Aegean coast while trying to reach Europe. The latest tragedy comes as another migration summit is convened in Malta.
Some 27 migrants were rescued by the Turkish coast guard after their boat sank during the 8-kilometer (5-mile) crossing between the Turkish coast and Greek island of Lesbos, Turkish media reported Wednesday.
But 14 people - half thought to be children - were lost as coast guard ships and helicopters combed the waters trying to save people from the foundering wooden boat.
"The boat probably sank after hitting rocks. It was severely damaged and apparently started to take in water, but they decided to go ahead anyway," Canakkale governor Hamza Erkal told Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. "They apparently turned back after the boat took in more water but it sank before reaching the shore."
Turkey has surpassed North Africa as the primary launch pad for refugees heading to Europe. It currently hosts more than 2.2 million refugees, mostly from war-torn Syria.
The latest in a spate of sea tragedies involving migrants comes the same day as European and African leaders are due to meet in the island country of Malta to discuss the crisis.
Emergency summit in Malta
European leaders are set to pledge as much as 3.6 billion euros ($3.8 billion) to African countries in a bid to help discourage others from making the journey.
The European Union has so far been unable to find a common response to the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing war, strife and poverty from the Middle East and African countries.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also recently visited Turkey, which has made fresh demands for EU funding in order to control the outflow of refugees.
About 650,000 people - more than two-thirds Syrians - have taken boats to Europe this year, mostly from Turkey. The crossing to Lesbos has become increasingly perilous as cold weather sets in and winter approaches.
jar/jil (AFP, dpa, Reuters)