An official says 228 migrants, apparently refugees from Syria, have been rescued after their damaged ship drifted for hours in rough seas off Cyprus' northern coast.

Hasan Tacoy, transport minister of the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state in Cyprus' north, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the migrants, including 25 children, have received medical check-ups and are now housed in a sports hall in the coastal town of Girne.

Tacoy said authorities received a distress call from the Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship Haj Zaher late Saturday, about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) off the coast.

But strong winds and rough seas prevented coast guard vessels from approaching the ship. Another vessel then managed to tow the cargo ship into Girne port after it drifted close to shore.