Boat carrying migrants from Lebanon sinks off Syria, 15 dead

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A boat carrying migrants from Lebanon capsized off the coast of Syria on Thursday afternoon, killing at least 15 people, Syrian media reported.

The incident is the latest this year as Lebanon’s multiple crises push people to flee its three-year-old economic collapse. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value, eradicating the purchasing power of thousands of families who now live in extreme poverty.

Syrian state television quoted the head of the Syrian Ports Authority Brig. General Samer Kobrosli said 15 bodies had been recovered and eight others had been rescued and taken for treatment to a hospital in the coastal town of Tartous. He added that authorities are still searching for survivors near the Syrian Mediterranean island of Arwad.

It was not immediately clear how many people were on board and where exactly they were heading.

State media did not give further details but quoted some of the survivors as saying they had left the Lebanese coastal town of Minyeh several days ago with the apparent aim of reaching Europe. He said the boat was carrying people of different nationalities.

Thousands of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians have left Lebanon on boats in recent months in search of better opportunities in Europe.

Lebanon has 6 million inhabitants, including 1 million Syrian refugees, and has been in the grip of a serious economic crisis since the end of 2019 which has plunged more than three quarters of the population into poverty.

In April, a boat carrying dozens of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians trying to migrate by sea to Italy sank more than five kilometers from the port of Tripoli, following a clash with the Lebanese navy. Dozens of people were killed in the incident.

Migrants leave the country from the northern coast of Lebanon, the poorest region of the small country.

On Thursday, Lebanese officials said naval forces rescued a boat carrying 55 migrants after encountering technical problems six nautical miles (7 miles) off the coast of the northern Akkar region. He said those rescued included two pregnant women and two children.