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More than 70 dead in sinking of boat carrying dozens of migrants off Syria

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The death toll from the sinking off the Syrian coast of a boat carrying dozens of migrants that left Lebanon last week has risen to more than 70, Syrian Health Minister Hassan al Ghabash confirmed Friday.

Al Ghabash said that 73 bodies have so far been recovered in the area and added that 20 people have been admitted to Al Basel Hospital, before stressing that the toll is “provisional,” as reported by Syrian state-run Syria TV.

The governor of Tartus, Abdulhalim Jalil, has stressed that the local authorities, in cooperation with the Police, have started to hand over the bodies of the victims to the relatives after their identification. The said network has pointed out on its account on the social network Facebook that several Lebanese families have moved to the site with Red Cross support.

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The boat, on which a Lebanese flag was hoisted, departed days ago from the town of Minié with more than a hundred people on board, according to the Lebanese daily ‘L’Orient le Jour’. Russian and Syrian helicopters have supported the Syrian Coast Guard and local fishermen in the search and rescue efforts.

For their part, Lebanese authorities remain in contact with Damascus to obtain information about the incident, although they are not participating in the aforementioned operations, as detailed by Hamiye spokesman Hassan Chucair. Sources cited by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and informants in Syria detailed that the victims are Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian.

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Rescue efforts are continuing in the area after some survivors indicated that the boat was carrying about 150 people. The Syrian Ministry of Health on Thursday issued an alert to medical personnel and the city’s Health Directorate emergency system, which is following up on the rescue, which has been complicated by high waves in the area.

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