Death toll from migrant boat sinking off Syrian coast at Tartus rises
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: The number of asylum seekers who died when a migrant boat sank off the Syrian coast at Tartus has risen to as high as 80, according to Syrian official sources.
Syrian and Russian rescue teams are reportedly still searching for survivors.
The Syrian Minister of Health, Hassan Al-Ghubash, said from Al-Basel Hospital in Tartus that the number of victims had risen to 77 with 20 survivors, including 8 in intensive care.
Al-Ghubash added that work is being done to identify the victims at the hospital before taking them to the Arida border crossing with Lebanon to be handed over to the Lebanese Red Cross.
A source in the Tartus Governorate confirmed that “rescue teams of the Syrian army, the Russian forces, the Ports Directorate, the people of Arwad Island, and fishermen are trying to search for bodies in the depths of the sea”.
“There were reports that 3 more bodies were recovered, bringing the number to 80 drowned." Russian forces are stationed on the Syrian coast, especially at the Russian military base in Hmeimim, Latakia Governorate, since Moscow stepped in to support the Bashar al-Assad regime in 2015.
The boat had set off a few days ago from the coast of northern Lebanon with asylum seekers of Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian nationalities onboard; their destination was one of the European countries.
The boat was carrying - according to the official Syrian TV - at least 150 people before it sank. The bodies of 9 victims arrived at the Arida border crossing in northern Lebanon.
Syrian ambulances transported the bodies from Tartus and handed them over to the Lebanese authorities at the border crossing.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati had demanded the army chief to tighten the monitoring of the beaches while the Lebanese Minister of Environment considered that security was not enough.
The Lebanese Minister of Transport said that illegal immigration has become an organized industry.
The Lebanese army announced that it had arrested 8 on suspicion of smuggling by sea, observing naval patrols and for trying to buy a boat to smuggle people.
Lebanon witnessed a jump in immigration rates, driven by one of the deepest economic crises that the country has experienced.
Besides Lebanese immigrants, there are also refugees from Syria and Palestine undertaking the perilous journey by boat.