34 bodies found, 16 rescued off Syrian coast

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34 bodies found, 16 rescued off Syrian coast

Authorities in Syria have found 34 bodies and rescued more than a dozen people off the coast of the northern port city of Tartus on Thursday, suspected of having left north Lebanon bound for Europe earlier this week.

Samer Qubrusli, the Syrian director-general of ports, told Reuters that authorities had found 34 bodies and rescued 14 people in Syrian waters by Thursday evening.

The Syrian transport ministry cited survivors as saying the boat left Lebanon's northern Minyeh region on Tuesday with between 120 and 150 people on board.

Lebanese transport minister Ali Hamiye said he had been informed by Syrian Transport Minister Zuhair Khuzaim that 33 bodies had been recovered and 16 people had been rescued.

Since the 1850s, Lebanon has seen a surge in migration driven by one of the world's deepest economic crises.

Many of those leaving migrant boats are refugees from Syria and Palestine, as well as Lebanese.

In the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, dozens of people protested earlier on Thursday to warn authorities that they had lost contact with a migrant boat with dozens on board that was headed for Italy.

Reuters couldn't confirm if it was the same boat mentioned by the Syrian authorities.

The Syrian transport ministry statement said that the director of the small island of Arwad off the coast of Tartus told them at 4: 30 p.m. that a drowned person had been sighted near an anchored ship.

The ministry sent a boat to recover the body.

It found the body of a child and other bodies began to appear.

The ministry said that the majority of victims and survivors were found near Arwad.

The Lebanese army said on Wednesday it had rescued 55 people aboard a malfunctioning boat in the country's territorial waters that it towed back to shore.

A migrant boat that set off from near Tripoli sank in April during an interception by the Lebanese navy off the country's coast.

Some 40 were rescued, seven were confirmed dead and around 30 were still missing, according to about 80 Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian migrants on board.

The number of people who have left Lebanon by sea nearly doubled in 2021 from 2020, according to the UN refugee agency earlier this month.

In 2022 it rose by more than 70% compared to the same period last year.

The main reasons it cited are the inability to survive in Lebanon due to the deteriorating economic situation and the lack of access to basic services and limited job opportunities.