26/12 Alarm Phone alerted to 7 emergency situations in the Aegean Sea, near Farmakonisi, Samos, Agathonisi, Chios, Lesvos and Pasas

27.12.2015 / 15:40 / Aegean Sea, Farmakonisi, Samos, Agathonisi, Chios, Lesvos and Pasas

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 26th of December 2015

Case name: 2015_12_26-AEG168
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to 7 distress cases in the Aegean Sea
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Aegean Sea

Summary of the Cases: On the 26th of December 2015, our Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to 7 emergency situations in the Aegean region. One group had stranded on Farmakonisi and needed help. Eventually we lost contact but believe that they were later transferred off the island by the Greek coastguards. One group was rescued at sea by the Turkish coastguards while two other groups were rescued by the Greek coastguards. Two vessels reached Greek islands independently. Two groups had stranded on the island of Pasas and were later found and rescued by Greek authorities.

Our shift team was informed about a group of 52 people, including 15 children and 4 pregnant women who had stranded on Farmakonisi Island and needed support (case 1). They had encountered the Greek military on the island but were nonetheless without food and exposed to the cold. It was clear that the Greek coastguards would not launch a rescue operation during the night so that the travellers would have to wait until the morning for rescue. In the morning at 8am we contacted the responsible Leros Port Authority and forwarded the GPS position of the group that we had obtained. We learned that more people had arrived by boat so that the group had grown to about 100 people. Afterwards our contact to the group could not be re-established. It is however likely that they were transferred off the island by the Greek coastguard during the day.

During the night we learned about a group of 50 people who wanted to reach Samos Island but entered a situation of distress in Turkish waters (case 2). We contacted the Turkish coastguards at 4.25am and they informed us that they knew about the case already as they had been contacted by several other people before. They confirmed that they were looking for the vessel. At 4.39am we received the confirmation that they had found and rescued the travellers.

At 4.50am, two contact persons informed us about a group of 27 people who were trying to reach Agathonisi Island (case 3). At 4.55am we contacted the Greek coastguards but after taking down the GPS coordinates they suggested that the vessel was still in Turkish waters. We informed the Turkish coastguards at 5.01am and they noted down the position as well as the phone numbers of the travellers. For several hours no new information could be obtained. At 11.15am the Turkish coastguards said that they had gone to the given GPS location but the vessel had not been there. At 11.30am one of the contact persons said that the group had reached the Greek island of Nera independently.

At 5.30am we received a call from a man who was in contact with a group in distress and on a vessel moving to Chios Island (case 4). When we got hold of the phone number of one of the travellers we spoke to them at 5.56am and it was clear that they were in severe distress and needed help. At 6.04am we spoke to the Greek coastguards and forwarded the GPS position as well as the phone number of the travellers. The coastguards asked for a newer position and thus we asked the travellers who passed on a GPS position that showed them now back in Turkish waters. We contacted the Turkish coastguards at 7.10am and passed on the coordinates. There was some confusion about whether or not which coordinates were correct and updated and the travellers could not be reached again. At 8.45am we contacted the Greek coastguards and they stated that they had rescued the travellers.

At 6.06am our shift team received a distress message via WhatsApp, informing us about a vessel close to Chios (case 5). It carried 45 people, including 25 children and 10 women. We contacted the group and they seemed ok but needed support. We called the Greek coastguards at 6.22am and passed on all the information we had gathered. At 6.41am the Greek coastguards contacted us and asked for a different phone number as the one they had did not work. We turned to our initial contact person and at 7.05am we received a new GPS position. Also their phone seemed to work again. We quickly passed this information to the coastguards. At 9.08am the group confirmed in a phone call that they had made it to Chios independently and were safe.

At 8.14am we were told about a distress situation near Lesvos Island via Facebook (case 6). Their engine had stopped working and the waves were high. We contacted the group shortly afterwards and were told that they were 50 people in total and very close to the island already, about 400 meters away. At 8.47am we were told via the contact person that they had been rescued by the Greek coastguards.

A few hours later a contact person informed us about a group of travellers who had stranded on Pasas Island and needed help (case 7). We spoke to them directly at 10.15am and they were all fine health-wise and said that a vessel was coming to pick them up. At 2pm we called the Chios Port Authority who confirmed that they knew about the group. At 3.12pm their rescue was confirmed by the group. Shortly after we learned about case 7, we heard about another group stranded on Pasas. The Chios Port Authority confirmed also the rescue of this second group.
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
Layers »
  • Border police patrols
    While the exact location of patrols is of course constantly changing, this line indicates the approximate boundary routinely patrolled by border guards’ naval assets. In the open sea, it usually correspond to the outer extent of the contiguous zone, the area in which “State may exercise the control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws” (UNCLOS, art. 33). Data source: interviews with border police officials.
  • Coastal radars
    Approximate radar beam range covered by coastal radars operating in the frame of national marine traffic monitoring systems. The actual beam depends from several different parameters (including the type of object to be detected). Data source: Finmeccanica.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone
    Maritime area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea in which the coastal state exercises sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, the seabed and its subsoil and the superjacent waters. Its breadth is 200 nautical miles from the straight baselines from which the territorial sea is measured (UNCLOS, Arts. 55, 56 and 57). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans
  • Frontex operations
    Frontex has, in the past few years, carried out several sea operations at the maritime borders of the EU. The blue shapes indicate the approximate extend of these operations. Data source: Migreurop Altas.
  • Mobile phone coverage
    Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network coverage. Data source: Collins Mobile Coverage.
  • Oil and gas platforms
    Oil and gas platforms in the Mediterranean. Data source:
  • Search and Rescue Zone
    An area of defined dimensions within which a given state is has the responsibility to co-ordinate Search and Rescue operations, i.e. the search for, and provision of aid to, persons, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger. Data source: IMO availability of search and rescue (SAR) services - SAR.8/Circ.3, 17 June 2011.
  • Territorial Waters
    A belt of sea (usually extending up to 12 nautical miles) upon which the sovereignty of a coastal State extends (UNCLOS, Art. 2). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans