Cyprus helps rescue 300 migrants aboard Italy-bound boat

NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus has assisted in the rescue of a small wooden boat carrying more than 300 migrants adrift 203 kilometers (126 miles) west of the island nation, a Cypriot official said on Tuesday.

The commander of the Cyprus Joint Rescue Coordination Center, Andreas Charalambides, told The Associated Press that the captain of the 18-meter (60-foot) boat sent a distress call Monday afternoon after engine problems. .

A helicopter and three naval and police patrol boats scrambled to support the boat that Charalambides said had departed Lebanon three days ago and was trying to reach Italy with many women and children on board. ship.

Authorities were unable to immediately determine the nationalities of the migrants on the boat but there was no indication that any of them had experienced any health problems, Charalambides said. All migrants were safely transferred aboard the nearby Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship Paolo Topic.

Charalambides said authorities had asked the captain of the 250-meter (820-foot) Paolo Topic to sail to the Cypriot port of Limassol so the migrants could disembark. But he said the captain chose, on the instructions of the company that owns the ship, to go to his original destination of Istanbul.

Once a host country for refugees, Lebanon has become a launching pad for a wave of dangerous sea migration to Europe. As the country’s economic crisis deepens, many Lebanese, as well as Syrian and Palestinian refugees have set out to sea, with security agencies reporting near-failed migration efforts on a weekly basis. .

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