Boat carrying migrants from Lebanon sinks off Syria, 15 dead

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A boat carrying migrants from Lebanon capsized off Syria’s coast Thursday afternoon killing at least 15 people, Syrian state media reported.

State television quoted the head of Syrian Ports Authority Brig. Gen. Samer Kobrosli as saying eight others were rescued and taken for treatment at a hospital in the coastal city of Tartus. He added authorities are still searching for survivors near the Syrian Mediterranean island of Arwad.

It was not immediately clear how many people were aboard and where exactly they were heading.

State media gave no further details but quoted some of the survivors as saying that they sailed from the Lebanese coastal town of Minyeh several days ago apparently aiming to reach Europe. It 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 6 million, including 1 million Syrian refugees, and has been in the grips of a severe economic meltdown since late 2019 that has pulled over three-quarters of the population into poverty.

In April, a boat carrying dozens of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians trying to migrate by sea to Italy went down more than five kilometers (three miles) from the port of Tripoli, following a confrontation with the Lebanese navy. Dozens were killed in the incident.