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At least 61 drown when refugee boat capsizes off Turkey

Ä°ZMIR, TURKEY (BNO NEWS) -- At least 61 people were killed on Thursday when a UK-bound refugee boat carrying more than 100 people capsized off the coast of western Turkey, local authorities said on early Friday. Among those killed were illegal immigrants from Palestine, Iraq, and Syria.

The accident occurred at around 5:30 a.m. local time when the small boat capsized in the Aegean Sea just off the coast of Ahmetbeyli, a village in the district of Menderes in Turkey's province of Izmir. The boat was carrying more than 100 people, including more than 30 children.

The Turkish Coast Guard and local vessels in the region located a number of survivors while some refugees were able to swim to the coast themselves, which was only about 50 meters (164 feet) from where the accident happened. But many of the victims became trapped under the boat as it sank.

A statement from the governor's office in Izmir province said 61 bodies had been recovered as of late Thursday, including 12 men, 18 women, 28 children and 3 babies. The vast majority of the survivors were believed to be in a good condition, although at least two were taken to a local hospital.

Reports indicate that the boat was headed to the United Kingdom and was carrying refugees from mostly Palestine, Iraq and Syria, where a civil war has displaced more than one million people. Two Turkish nationals, who are believed to have been the boat's captain and assistant, were arrested after they managed to swim to safety.

Turkey, currently home to more than 80,000 Syrian refugees near the country's southeastern border with Syria, has long been a passage way for Africans and Asians as they try to reach Europe. The Greek islands in the Aegean Sea are often a common destination for the illegal immigrants, who pay smugglers to take them from Turkey.

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