VIDEO: 10 Syrians, one Turk die in overcrowded minibus crash in northwest Turkey
At least 11 people, including 10 Syrian nationals and one Turkish citizen, have died and 29 others were injured when an overcrowded minibus they were traveling in hit a wall in the northwestern Turkish province of Balıkesir on Aug. 8. The Syrians were thought to be migrants on their way to an Aegean seaside town where they would begin an illegal voyage to a Greek island.
The minibus, which was designed to carry 25 passengers but was carrying 40 people, crashed into a retaining wall at around 7:30 a.m. Aug. 8, on the road between Balıkesir and the province’s Havran district, when the driver lost control as it was going down a slope.
A total of 11 people died in the accident, while 29 others were injured.
Havran District Governor Yasin Özturk said the minibus was carrying almost 40 Syrians although its capacity was 25, and the Syrians inside the bus were refugees en route to the town of Ayvalık in western Turkey.
“Eight people died at the scene. Many injured people were taken to nearby hospitals. But one of those injured could not be saved,” Öztürk said Aug. 8, when the death toll was nine, which later increased to 11, after two more people, including a Turkish citizen who was allegedly the human smuggler organizing the illegal crossings, and another Syrian citizen succumbed to their injuries late Aug. 8.
Öztürk had said he was afraid the death toll would rise.
At least some of those who died or were injured in the accident were thought to be refugees, as Turkish security forces found life buoys in the wrecked minibus, while the dead Turkish man was suspected of being a human smuggler who organized the trip, which started in Istanbul’s Aksaray neighborhood and was allegedly aimed at ending in Ayvalık.
The Syrians were allegedly then to cross the Aegean Sea illegally to reach Greece, and thus the European Union.
Over 1.8 million Syrian refugees have taken refuge in Turkey after fleeing the war in their homeland. Many Syrian refugees have flocked to Aegean coastal towns in western Turkey each day to cross to the European Union via Greece.
The United Nations warned Aug. 7 that migrants landing in Greece were facing “shameful” conditions, with the crisis-hit country claiming it was unable to cope with the massive influx on its Aegean islands.
Some 124,000 people, almost all of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, have come ashore since the beginning of the year - a 750 percent increase from the same period last year, the U.N. refugee agency said, according to Agence France-Presse.
But when they arrive on Greece’s islands there is usually nothing for them and most are forced to sleep outdoors, relying on volunteers for food and water, said Vincent Cochetel, head of the UNHCR’s Europe division.
“It’s total chaos on the islands,” he said, describing desperate, exhausted people, including women, children and unaccompanied minors, searching for food, water, shelter and information about how to proceed.
After a few days they are transferred to Athens, where again “there is nothing waiting for them,” he said. Greece only offers reception places for 1,100 people, he revealed, “which is totally inadequate for the needs.”
Around 50,000 people arrived in July alone - 20,000 more than in June, the U.N. refugee agency said.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asked Europe for help, saying on Aug. 7 his cash-strapped country could not deal with them alone.
The influx has piled pressure on Greece’s services at a time when its own citizens are struggling with harsh cuts and its government is negotiating with the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for fresh loans to stave off economic collapse.