Beirut, Sep 23 (EFE).- The death toll after a boat said to be carrying more than 150 migrants capsized off the coast of Syria stands at 87 and some 50 other people remained unaccounted for, Lebanese authorities said Friday.
“The number of mortal victims has climbed to 87, while 20 survivors are being treated in hospital,” the office of Transport Minister Ali Hamie said in a statement published by Lebanon’s official news agency, NNA.
Nine bodies – seven Lebanese nationals and two Palestinians – were handed over to the Lebanese Red Cross, NNA said.
The vessel set out Tuesday from Tripoli, Lebanon, with upwards of 150 Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian migrants aboard, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which is based in the United Kingdom.
Survivors told the SOHR that they had hoped to reach Cyprus, a European Union member-state.
Rescue operations continued Friday in waters around Arwad island and near the Syrian coastal city of Tartus.
The SOHR, citing unnamed sources, said that many of the Syrian migrants onboard the ship had sold homes and other assets to finance the trip to Europe.
This week’s shipwreck was one of the deadliest accidents since people began fleeing Lebanon in 2020 amid an economic meltdown that has seen the currency lose more than 90 percent of its value.
Nearly 80 percent of the Lebanese population live below the poverty line, while data from the United Nations shows that 90 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are impoverished.
A dozen people perished on April 23 when a boat filled with migrants went down. Around 45 other passengers were rescued.
More than 75 percent of the 38 boats that sailed from Lebanon in 2020 were intercepted at sea and the more than 1,500 would-be migrants they carried were repatriated, according to the UN. EFE amo-sr-cgs-ssk/dr