At least six dead as Lebanon migrant boat capsizes, search continues for survivors

At least six dead as Lebanon migrant boat capsizes, search continues for survivors
Six bodies have been found and 47 people rescued since a boat carrying migrants capsized in the eastern Mediterranean.
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The boat capsized on Saturday night near the coast of the northern city of Tripoli [AFP via Getty]

Six people died when a boat capsized off the Lebanese coast of Tripoli overnight, including at least one child, Lebanese transport minister Ali Hamie told Reuters.

A small dinghy carrying around 60 people sunk off the coat on Saturday night with both Lebanese and Syrians aboard.

Hamie told Reuters that a young girl's body was retrieved on Saturday night and that the army had recovered another five on Sunday morning.

Lebanese state media reported earlier on Saturday that the army had recovered the bodies of nine migrants.

The northern city of Tripoli has become a departure point for a growing number of people attempting a potentially lethal sea escape from crisis-hit Lebanon.

The Lebanese army had announced that 47 people were rescued, and that the body of a young girl had been recovered. It said high waves submerged the boat, which was carrying more people than it could hold.

The army said several of the rescued were treated on the spot while others were taken to nearby hospitals. One person was detained on suspicion of being a smuggler who sent the migrants, the army said.

"The search is ongoing by the Lebanese navy which is looking for survivors," the director of Tripoli's port, Ahmed Tamer, told AFP.

According to Tamer, the number of passengers still missing remains unclear.

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Lebanon is in the grips of an unprecedented financial crisis, with the currency losing more than 90 percent of its value and the majority of the population living below the poverty line.

The economic crash has spurred an uptick in sea crossings out of the country, with an increasing number of Lebanese joining the ranks of Syrian and Palestinian refugees trying to illegally cross into Europe.

The Lebanese army and security forces were deployed at Tripoli's port on Sunday where ambulances were on standby to receive survivors.

Relatives of those on board the capsized ship held a vigil at the entrance to the port to await news of their loved ones.

"My nephew, he has five children and his wife is pregnant with twins. He was trying to escape hunger and poverty," said one man waiting to enter the harbour.

Nissrine Merheb was also waiting for news from her two cousins and their children who were also on board the ship.

"The people of Tripoli are destined to die," she wrote in a post on Facebook.

"Even when we are trying to run away from the filth of politicians and their corruption... death catches up with us," she said.

(Reuters, AFP)