ATHENS: A woman and child have drowned and 41 people were rescued after a boat carrying migrants from Turkey sank off the Greek island of Leros, Greece’s coastguard said Sunday.

Among the survivors, six children and two adults were transferred to hospital in Leros, the coastguard said, adding that search operations were still underway.

Three rescue boats and a helicopter have been deployed but progress is being hampered by strong winds and choppy seas in the Mediterranean.

A fisherman raised the alarm after discovering the lifeless body of the woman floating at sea, according to local press reports.

Eye witnesses reported seeing an inflatable boat carrying around 40 migrants, including children and people with reduced mobility aboard.

“Unfortunately, once again we have innocent victims who have lost their lives because of the criminal behaviour of traffickers,“ Greece’s Merchant Navy Minister Yannis Plakiotakis said in a statement.

The number of migrants requiring rescue has risen as more attempt to reach Greece from Turkish shores on shoddy and overcrowded vessels despite the rough winter seas.

Last December, a two-month-old baby died after a shipwreck off the Greek island of Lesbos.

Some 2,246 people fleeing wars and poverty are known to have lost their lives in the eastern Mediterranean since 2014, according to statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). - AFP