Seven people died and 64 were rescued when a boat carrying refugees and migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan sank on Thursday in eastern Turkey’s Lake Van, the governor’s office in Bitlis province said.
The boat sank after capsizing as it approached Adilcevaz, Bitlis, which is on the northern shores of Lake Van, the office said in a statement. The accident happened at approximately 3am (00:00 GMT).
The lake is near the border with Iran, from where migrants regularly cross into Turkey, heading west towards Europe.
It was not clear why the migrants were on the boat in Lake Van, which is completely within Turkey’s borders.
Five people were found dead at the scene and two died in hospital, while the 64 people rescued have been taken to nearby hospitals and shelters, the governor’s office said.
It said gendarmerie forces, emergency response teams and police divers were conducting search operations.
This year, Turkey, which hosts the world’s largest refugee population with 3.7 million Syrians, repeatedly said it wants Syrian refugees to leave and return to a “safe zone” in Syria’s northeast.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned of further waves of refugees if the violence in Syria – where deadly bombings persist to this day – do not cease.