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Freighter carrying hundreds of migrants stranded off Crete

A freighter carrying hundreds of migrants trying to enter Europe is drifting in high winds off the island of Crete, and Greek authorities have launched a rescue mission with five ships.

A coast guard statement said the 250ft (77m) cargo ship suffered engine failure some 30 nautical miles south-east of Crete.

Four merchant ships and a Greek navy frigate have reached the area to evacuate the vessel, if necessary. Authorities also are examining the possibility of towing it to safety.

The coast guard said an estimated 500 to 700 people are on board the freighter, but their nationalities, port of departure and exact destination are not known.

Greece is a major entry point for refugees trying to enter Europe, especially ones from war-torn countries such as Syria and Libya.

Online Editors