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Lebanon: More than 70 dead after boat sinks off Syria coast

Dozens remain unaccounted for after vessel carrying over 100 people, mostly Lebanese and Syrian, sank near Tartous
A partial view shows the coastline of Syria's port city of Tartus on 24 July 24 2022 (AFP)

At least 73 people have died and 20 others were rescued after a boat they boarded from Lebanon sank off Syria's coast, government ministers from both countries confirmed on Friday.

Lebanese Transport Minister Ali Hamieh said that over 100 people, mostly Lebanese and Syrian, were on board a small boat that sank on Thursday off the coast of the Syrian city of Tartus. Dozens of people remain unaccounted for. 

"The number of victims from the shipwreck has reached 73 people," Syria's Health Minister Hassan al-Ghabash said in a statement, adding that 20 survivors were being treated in Al-Basel hospital in Tartus. 

"Oxygen assistance has been provided to most of the hospitalised people and some of them have been transferred to intensive care," the Syrian health ministry said on Thursday.

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"I am discussing with Syria's transport minister a mechanism to retrieve the corpses from Syria," Hamieh told AFP.

The minister confirmed that of those rescued, five were Lebanese. 

The boat had left Lebanon “days ago”, according to the head of Syrian ports Samer Kbrasli, who was citing survivors. 

Syria’s transport ministry said those rescued had suggested the boat set off from Miniyeh, a town north of the Lebanese port city of Tripoli. 

Tartus is the southernmost of Syria’s key ports, around 50km north of Tripoli. 

Rescue teams were dispatched to find survivors, but "the search in the waters was interrupted in the evening due to strong waves," Kbralsi said on Thursday. 

"We are dealing with one of our largest ever rescue operations," Syrian transport ministry official Sleiman Khalil told AFP. "We are covering a large area that extends along the entire Syrian coast."

Last year, Lebanon saw a spike in the number of people attempting to board overcrowded boats to reach Europe. 

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