Boat carrying 60 migrants capsizes off the Lebanese coast

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BEIRUT — A boat carrying about 60 migrants capsized Saturday night off the Lebanese coast, and 45 people were rescued, while a young girl was confirmed dead and the rest were missing, officials said.

Transportation Minister Ali Hamieh told The Associated Press that 17 people had been brought to shore along with the body of the young girl. He said 28 others were rescued later by Lebanon’s navy.

“Search operations are ongoing for the rest,” Hamieh, who is supervising the rescue operations, said by telephone.

He said authorities had no exact numbers of the migrants because they left the country illegally. But the Lebanese Red Cross said the boat was carrying about 60 migrants.

The Red Cross said it had sent ambulances to the port of the northern city of Tripoli in case there were injuries.

For many years Lebanon was a country that took in refugees, but since the country’s economic meltdown began in October 2019, hundreds of people have left on boats heading to Europe.

Migrants have been paying thousands of dollars to smugglers to take them to Europe hoping for a better life. Many have reached Europe, but dozens more were forced home by the Lebanese Navy. Over the last three years, many people died on their journey to Europe.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office said the boast capsized shortly after leaving the northern coastal town of Qalamoun near Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city. Tripoli, Lebanon’s poorest city is home to the most deprived.

Mikati’s office said the Lebanese army and authorities were on high alert following the case.

Lebanon, a small Mediterranean nation of 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees, is in the grip of the worst economic crisis in the country’s modern history. More than three quarters of Lebanon’s population are now in poverty due to the economic collapse.

The World Bank describes the crisis as among the worst in the world since the 1850s. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value.

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