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Hopes Dim for 16 Missing in Aegean

August 28, 2000

BODRUM, Turkey (AP) _ A survivor of a capsized boat swam ashore as hopes dimmed for 16 other missing illegal immigrants two days after the disaster in the Aegean Sea, a navy official said Monday.

The Iraqi immigrant, Muhammed Said, reached the Turkish coast Sunday night, becoming the second survivor to swim ashore following Saturday’s accident off the Greek island of Kos, said Navy Sgt. Avni Cindik.

Searchers rescued six other people and recovered eight bodies from the Aegean within hours of the boat’s sinking. The 24-foot boat left from the Aegean resort town of Bodrum, across from Kos.

Villagers found Said at Datca peninsula, 20 miles south of Bodrum.

Turkey’s coast guard was searching for the other missing immigrants Monday. Cindik said search efforts will be called off Tuesday.

Besir Emiri, an immigrant rescued by fishermen, recounted his ordeal.

``We were being rocked in waves. I immediately put on a lifejacket and then we are suddenly buried in waters,″ Emiri told Sabah newspaper. ``Everyone was screaming. When I saw others begging for help in the sea, I thought that I am going to die.″

Another survivor, Abdul Yazdan, said the immigrants were praying to reach Greece just before the boat sank.

On Sunday, police arrested three Turkish smugglers who allegedly organized the trip. Police said they were searching for two other suspects.

The captain, who was among the rescued Saturday, told authorities he was bringing 31 illegal immigrants _ 18 Iraqis, eight Iranians and five Afghanis _ to Greece when the boat sank. He said smugglers had offered him $1,000 for each person smuggled into Greece.

Tens of thousands of immigrants from the Middle East and Asia cross illegally from Turkey to Greece each year on their way to Europe.

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