Sep 25, 2014 11:28 AM
345 people rescued from boat stranded off Cyprus
The Associated Press
LIMASSOL, Cyprus (AP) A cruise ship picked up hundreds of people, apparently refugees who fled Syria, who were stranded aboard a small boat off Cyprus on Thursday, officials said.
The Cypriot Defense Ministry the 345 people, including 53 children, would arrive at the country's southern port of Limassol Thursday evening. They will then be taken to a reception center near the capital Nicosia where they will be given shelter and medical attention.
Salamis Cruise Lines Managing Director Kikis Vasiliou told The Associated Press that one of its cruise ships was instructed to change course and pick up the people packed aboard the smaller vessel.
The Defense Ministry said the boat issued a distress call early Thursday amid bad weather and had "most likely" set sail from Syria loaded with "civilian refugees."
Vasiliou said the company received the request from Cypriot Search and Rescue authorities to assist in the rescue operation Thursday morning while the cruise ship was returning to Cyprus from the Greek islands.
The Defense Ministry said the small boat was located about 50 nautical miles off Cyprus' southwestern coastal town of Paphos.
Vasiliou said the cruise ship, with a crew of 230 and a passenger capacity of 800, would be able to give refugees blankets, medical care and food while taking them to the Cypriot port of Limassol.
Thousands of migrants fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and northern Africa attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats in search of safe havens in Europe, and hundreds have died at sea.