ISTANBUL (AFP): Twenty-two people, including children, died on Sunday when a vehicle carrying migrants reportedly heading for EU member Greece plunged off the highway into a waterway in western Turkey.
The vehicle, described as a lorry, was travelling on a highway in the Izmir region close to Izmir airport when it flipped over and fell into the channel several metres below, state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The nationality of the migrants was not made clear. Twenty-two people were killed, the agency said, lifting an earlier toll of 19, while 13 more were injured.
Turkish television pictures showed the stricken wreckage of the vehicle, which was reduced to burned-out metal by the impact of the crash with corpses strewn beside.
The DHA news agency said the driver of the vehicle, a Turkish man aged 35, survived and told police from his hospital bed that he had swerved to avoid an oncoming white vehicle.
The dead included two babies and two children as well as a pregnant woman, it said.
Once the driver’s hospital treatment is completed, he will be sent to court with a demand to be arrested, Anadolu said. Regional prosecutors have opened an investigation, it added.
DHA said that the vehicle was headed for the coast of the Izmir region, from where the migrants planned to take inflatable dinghies, which had been packed into their vehicle, to Greece’s Samos island.
Samos is just a few kilometres north of Turkey’s Dilek peninsula that juts out from the Izmir region.
– Key transit point –
Turkey is a key transit points for migrants from troubled countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa seeking a new life in Europe.
A million migrants crossed from Turkey into Greece in 2015, mostly by boats, in a crisis which forced a deal between Ankara and the EU to stem the flow of people.
Numbers have fallen since but people are still undertaking what is a highly perilous journey and the flow has ticked up this year from 2017.
According to UN figures, more than 24,500 migrants have arrived in Greece by sea so far this year, with 118 people losing their lives via this route.
Last week, eight migrants were found drowned off the Karaburun district, also in Izmir province, after their boat capsized.
Twenty-six others are still officially listed as missing after that accident, according to Anadolu.
The trips of migrants towards Greece are often organised by smugglers who demand hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars per person to sort out the logistics.
After the disaster off Karaburun, four suspected smugglers were arrested following evidence given by an Iraqi who survived, Anadolu said. They had demanded a fee of $1,500 from each migrant.