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BC-EUGreece-Ships Collide, 1st Ld-Writethru,203
2 dead, 8 missing after freighter sinks off Greece
Eds: Updates with merchant marine minister's comments. Adds detail.
ATHENS, Greece • A cargo ship sank off southern Greece within minutes of colliding with another freighter in fair weather Monday, leaving two Syrian seamen dead and eight others missing, officials said. Seven sailors were rescued.
It was not clear exactly why the Antigua- and Barbuda-flagged Consouth collided with the Cook Islands-flagged Pirireis in the Mediterranean Sea. The accident occurred before 7 a.m. about 78 miles (125 kilometers) southwest of Greece's Peloponnese peninsula, a Merchant Marine Ministry statement said.
The 13,000-metric ton Pirireis, which was carrying fertilizer to Ukraine, sank just seven minutes after the collision, giving crew little time to react. Seven of its 17 Syrian seamen were rescued, and 2 bodies were later recovered from the sea.
Marine Ministry Minister Costas Mousouroulis said preliminary indications faulted the German-owned 9,000-metric ton Consouth, a container ship whose 16-strong Russian, Filipino and Polish crew was unhurt.
"The information I have so far suggests that the Consouth caused the tragedy," he told state NET TV. He did not elaborate.
Weather conditions and visibility were good at the time, which helped the large rescue operation involving coast guard ships, merchant ships, a rescue helicopter and an C-130 transport plane.
The Consouth was sailing without freight from Turkey to Malta.