A child has died and 45 people were rescued after a boat carrying about 60 migrants sank off Lebanon, where deadly sea crossings have spiralled due to an economic crisis.
“Forty-five people have been rescued and the corpse of one child,” has been retrieved from the boat that sank on Saturday near the coast of the northern city of Tripoli, Public Works and Transport Minister Ali Hamie told a local broadcaster.
He said about 60 people were on the vessel carrying migrants out of Lebanon.
“The search is ongoing,” Hamie said.
The Lebanese government said in a statement that Prime Minister Najib Mikati was following the sinking of a boat carrying passengers that departed from the Qalamoun area, south of Tripoli.
The Lebanese Red Cross said it had sent 10 ambulances to Tripoli.
An AFP news agency correspondent said the army had closed off the port, allowing entry only to ambulances which were zipping in and out.
The families of some of the passengers gathered to check on their loves ones but they were denied access.
“This happened because of the politicians who forced unemployed Lebanese to leave the country,” AFP quoted one man waiting for news of a relative outside the port as saying.
Lebanon, a country of about six million people, is grappling with an unprecedented financial crisis that the World Bank says is on a scale usually associated with wars.
The currency has lost more than 90 percent of its purchasing power and the majority of the population lives below the poverty line.
The United Nations refugee agency says at least 1,570 people, 186 of them Lebanese, left or tried to leave by sea from Lebanon between January and November 2021.
Most were hoping to reach European Union member Cyprus, an island 175km (110 miles) away. This is up from 270 passengers, including 40 Lebanese, in 2019.
Most of those trying to leave Lebanon by sea are Syrian refugees, but Lebanese have increasingly joined their ranks.
Tripoli is Lebanon’s second city and is the poorest city on the Mediterranean, according to the UN’s Habitat programme.