World Bulletin/News Desk
At least 24 people have died after a boat believed to have been carrying illegal immigrants capsized in Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait on Monday.
Seven people were rescued and 24 dead bodies were recovered, the Istanbul governor’s office announced.
The boat, which capsized, was loaded with 40 Afghan illegal migrants, including 12 children and seven women, along with a Turkish captain, the Hurriyet news website reported rescuers as saying.
"They had life jackets. But there were bodies everywhere. Babies, children... We pulled out 15-20 bodies," it quoted fisherman Kadir Sert as saying.
The governor's office said the coastguard had been alerted after the boat sank around 3 miles (5 km) from the coast in the Black Sea at the northern end of the Bosphorus.
Shipping agents GAC said in a statement the boat had been heading for the Romanian port of Constanta when it sank around 5 am (0300 GMT).
Following emergency appeals early in the morning, a team from the Turkish Coast Guard was dispatched to the area in the far north of the 31-kilometer strait, near the Black Sea.
Search-and-rescue operations are being carried out by seven coastguard vessels, a helicopter, a diving team and nearby fishing boats.
The Bosphorus strait is one of the world's busiest waterways, a vital route for Russian oil and other commodities as the only outlet to the world's oceans from the Black Sea.
The strait bisects Istanbul, a city of around 15 million people. Poor weather frequently forces its closure in winter.
Most of the migration to Europe happens via the Mediterranean Sea and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said last week that an estimated 3,200 migrants had died attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year.
"Many of them (are) victims of ruthless criminal gangs seeking to profit from the misery of men, women and children fleeing conflict and oppression," the IOM said in a statement on its wesbite.Last Mod: 03 Kasım 2014, 13:44