ATHENS (Reuters) - Two people drowned and eight are missing after two cargo ships collided off southwestern Greece early on Monday, the Greek coastguard said.

The drowned and missing crew were from the Pirireis, sailing under a Cook Islands flag, which was in a collision with the ConSouth carrier about 75 nautical miles off the islet of Sapienza, a coastguard official said.

The ConSouth, sailing under an Antigua-Barbuda flag, was not seriously damaged and its crew of 16 is safe.

"Pirireis had a crew of 17. The ConSouth ship recovered two drowned with eight still missing," said the official who declined to be named.

The official said two coastguard vessels, joined by a navy helicopter and a C-130 aircraft, had launched search-and-rescue operations, assisted by five ships sailing in the area.

"The weather was fine, the sea was calm," Dimitris Kafantaris, mayor of the nearby coastal town of Pylos, told state-run TV Net. "Authorities are also checking to see if there was any pollution from the sinking."

The coastguard said the Pirireis, owned by Turkish shipping firm Emiroglu, was transporting fertilizers from Algeria to Ukraine.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Tatiana Fragou; Editing by Pravin Char)