NICOSIA - At least 19 refugees drowned and up to 30 were missing Wednesday after their boat sank in the Mediterranean off the north of Cyprus, local security forces said.

The boat was carrying 150 people when it went down off the coast of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot-controlled portion of the island, which is only recognised by Ankara.

Over 100 people were rescued in a joint operation by Turkish Cypriot and Turkish coastguards after the boat sank off the village of Gialousa (Yeni Erenkoy in Turkish) on the panhandle Karpas peninsula.

At least 19 drowned and between 25 and 30 were still missing, the Turkish Cypriot security forces (GKK) said in a statement. One severely wounded victim was taken by helicopter to Cyprus, the GKK added. Search efforts were under way to recover the missing with commercial vessels also taking part, reports said.

Turkey’s DHA news agency said that the refugees were Syrians seeking to go to Europe but this had yet to be confirmed.

Cyprus, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Syria’s coast, has not seen the massive inflow of migrants experienced by Turkey, Greece and Italy although asylum applications have risen sharply.

The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup. Turkey has however been one of the hubs for refugees fleeing Syria and other trouble spots like Afghanistan and Iraq.

26 feared dead in Congo

boat accident

Eleven people died and 15 are missing after an overloaded boat with around 100 people onboard capsized on the Congo River, local officials said Wednesday.

The accident occurred overnight Monday in Basoko territory in the northeast province of Tshopo, the district’s administrator, Sabrina Dako, told AFP.

The motorised craft “was travelling at night without lights, hit a rock and capsized,” said Epis Lombo, an official in the town of Lokutu.

Accidents on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rivers and lakes - vital arteries for transport in a country where roads are poor - are frequent and often inflict a high loss of life.

Many vessels are poorly maintained, lack life jackets or are overladen, and often defy a ban on small vessels travelling at night. In addition, many Congolese do not know how to swim.

In May, 50 people died in remote Tshuapa province on the Momboyo River.

In February at least 14 were reported missing when two boats sank on the Congo, the world’s deepest river and the second largest in the world after the Amazon in terms of discharged volume of water.