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IERAPETRA, Greece — Hampered by gale-force winds and high waves, a Greek navy frigate was slowly towing a crippled freighter crammed with hundreds of migrants to safety on Wednesday. A day after it suffered engine failure in international waters, the 250-foot Baris cargo ship carrying some 700 men, women and children trying to enter Europe clandestinely was being towed at a speed of about three knots (3.4 miles per hour).
It was one of the largest boatloads of the sort in recent years and was expected to arrive well after nightfall at the port town of Ierapetra in southern Crete. The coastguard said indications suggested passengers included Syrians and Afghans heading for Italy. It was unclear where the Kiribati-flagged ship set sail from. Tens of thousands of people risk the hazardous journey every year, paying smuggling gangs to carry them over in usually unseaworthy craft ranging from toy dinghies to aging rust-buckets. Most end up in Italy.