Dozens dead after Turkey migrant boat sinks

Media caption,
BBC's James Reynolds: "Those who were trapped below deck, who we believe include women and children, they drowned"

Nearly 60 people have died, about half of them said to be children, after a boat carrying migrants capsized off the coast of western Turkey.

Another 45 of those on board the fishing boat managed to swim about 50m (160ft) to shore, officials said.

Those who died are believed to have been trapped below deck when the boat sank shortly after leaving port.

The boat was said to have been carrying Iraqis, Syrians and Palestinians heading for Europe.

The Greek islands in the Aegean Sea are a common destination for migrants who pay smugglers to take them from Turkey.

Unconfirmed reports said the group had been staying in local hotels and had planned to travel to the UK.

The fishing boat went down after hitting rocks at around 05:30 local time (02:30 GMT) close to the village of Ahmetbeyli in the province of Izmir.

After the alarm was raised, divers and coastguards tried to save some of those who were still on board. The captain and his assistant were among those who swam to safety and have been arrested, Turkish media said.

Turkey's Zaman newspaper said 28 children and 18 women were among the dead. However, district governor Tahsin Kurtbeyoglu told Reuters that 31 children had died, including three babies.

On Thursday the dim outline of the submerged boat could be seen just below the surface of the water.

Turkey is currently home to more than 80,000 refugees from Syria, but even before the conflict began it was seen as the main destination for Africans and Asians seeking entry into the European Union.

Several Greek islands, including Chios and Samos, are on the migrant routes from Turkey to Greece and the EU has stepped up border controls in recent years in an attempt to intercept the boats.