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Boat carrying migrants from Lebanon sinks off Syria, 15 dead

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

The incident is the latest this year as Lebanon’s multiple crises are pushing people to flee its three-year-old economic meltdown. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and the Lebanese pound has dropped more than 90% of its value, eradicating the purchasing power of thousands of families that now live in extreme poverty.

Syria’s state television quoted the head of Syrian Ports Authority Brig. Gen. Samer Kobrosli as saying that 15 bodies were recovered and 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.

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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.

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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.

Migrants have been leaving the country from the northern Lebanese coast that is the most impoverished region in the small country.

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On Thursday, Lebanese officials said naval forces rescued a boat carrying 55 migrants after it faced technical problems six nautical miles (7 miles) off the coast of the northern region of Akkar. It said the people rescued included two pregnant women and two children.

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