Migrants drown near Turkish coast

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A boat carrying illegal migrants sank off Turkey's Aegean coast and at least 43 people died, an official said yesterday.

The 50-foot boat sank in rough weather late on Saturday off the coast of Seferihisar, a town south of the city of Izmir, local Governor Orhan Sefik Guldibi said. Six migrants were rescued and hospitalized, mostly for shock.

Citing survivors, the Coast Guard said a total of 85 people were on board. Guldibi said 43 bodies had been recovered.

"We are trying to keep our hopes alive but the possibility of more survivors is diminishing," Guldibi said.

Dogan news agency said earlier that 51 people had died, but a local official disputed that report. Ercan Dogu, an official from the Izmir governor's office, said a miscommunication between police and paramilitary police had resulted in conflicting fatality reports.

Dogu said a final count late yesterday afternoon showed 43 dead, including two women.

Boats and helicopters searched the sea for more survivors, Guldibi said. Strong winds and rough seas hampered rescue work, private NTV television reported. Rescuers also searched areas close to the Greek island of Chios for bodies, the report said.

The search stalled after night fell.