Some 96 people, mostly refugee and migrants, were rescued by the Greek Coast Guard from a yacht slowly sinking near the tiny island of Halki, off Rhodes early Aug. 26 with the operation said to be ongoing.
Authorities received an emergency call from the vessel but didn't say what was causing it to slowly go under or what the destination was, Greek islands the target for human traffickers sending refugees and migrants from Turkey who had gone there fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their countries.
A passenger used a cellphone to call a European emergency number to alert authorities of the plight, reports said, adding that most of those rescued were taken to Rhodes and the island of Karpathos.
It was unclear how many people had been on board the yacht, authorities said. Overnight, five Coast Guard vessels, military helicopters, a navy ship and five nearby vessels took part in the operation initially.
Turkey, which allows the traffickers to operate during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, had accused Greece of pushing back refugees and migrants and even abandoning them at sea, charges that the New Democracy government vehemently denied.
Thousands of people continue to make their way clandestinely to the Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast, paying smugglers to ferry them in often unseaworthy, overcrowded inflatable dinghies or other vessels.
Greece is holding more than 100,000 of them, including more than 34,000 on five islands near Turkey, virtually all seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them and other countries reneged on promises to take some of the overload.