West News Wire: The Syrian and Lebanese governments report that dozens of people have died after a boat carrying migrants and refugees from Lebanon sank off Syria’s coast.
The accident on Thursday claimed the lives of 71 individuals, according to the Lebanese transport minister on Friday.
Previously, the Syrian government claimed that 20 survivors were receiving care in Tartous’ Basel hospital.
According to witnesses, the boat left the northern Minyeh region of Lebanon on Tuesday with between 120 and 150 passengers on board, according to the Syrian transport ministry.
The Syrian director general of ports, Samer Qubrusli, reported that searches were still being conducted on Friday. He had previously claimed that the rescue effort had been challenging because to choppy waters and heavy gusts.
The incident is one of the deadliest since a surging number of Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians have tried to flee crisis-hit Lebanon by sea to Europe.
Some of those who died on the boat were from Akkar, an impoverished region in the far north of Lebanon.
The family had buried two young girls on Friday morning, and were still waiting for news about the fate of the girls’ two brothers, as well as their mother. The father is in hospital across the border in Syria.
“There’s a lot of grief here, people are in shock,” said Khodr. “They don’t understand why they don’t have much more information.”
Family members had explained to Khodr that the father had decided to try to go to Europe, despite the risks, because of the ongoing financial crisis in Lebanon, and the lack of opportunities there.
“We’ve spoken to people who’ve survived being in a boat that capsized and what they tell us is we’re going to keep doing it again and again, because there are no jobs,” Khodr added.
In Lebanon alone, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and the Lebanese pound has dropped more than 90 percent of its value, eradicating the purchasing power of thousands of families that now live in extreme poverty.
Tartous Governor Abdulhalim Khalil reportedly visited survivors at the hospital.
It was not immediately clear how many people were on board and where exactly were they heading, but the coastguard is still searching for bodies.
State media said the boat was carrying people of different nationalities.
Thousands of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians have left Lebanon on boats over the past months seeking better opportunities in Europe.
Lebanon has a population of six million, including one million Syrian refugees, and has been in the grips of a severe economic meltdown since late 2019 that has pulled more than three-quarters of the population into poverty.