A cargo ship sank off southern Greece after colliding with another freighter Monday, leaving two Syrian seamen dead and eight others missing and spurring a large rescue operation, officials said.

The accident occurred before 7 a.m. some 78 miles southwest of the southern Peloponnese peninsula, a Merchant Marine Ministry statement said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collision between the Antigua-flagged Consouth and the Cook Islands-flagged Piri Reis in the Mediterranean Sea.

Weather conditions were good at the time, which facilitated rescue efforts involving coast guard vessels, merchant ships, a rescue helicopter and an airforce C-130 transport plane.

The Piri Reis, which was carrying a cargo of fertilizer to a Ukrainian port, sank, and seven of its crew of 17 Syrian seamen were rescued. Two bodies were pulled out of the sea a few hours after the collision.

The Consouth, sailing without freight from Turkey to Malta, had 16 Russian, Filippino and Polish seamen on board, all who were unhurt, the ministry said.