Eighty-nine bodies have been recovered since a boat carrying migrants from Lebanon sunk off Syria's coast, Syrian state media said Saturday, as the Lebanese army said it arrested a suspected smuggler behind one of the deadliest recent shipwrecks in the eastern Mediterranean.
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), called it a "heart-wrenching tragedy".
At least 14 people rescued were recovering in hospitals in Syria while six others were discharged, as search efforts continued, with several people still missing since the boat sank on Thursday.
"There are 89 victims, while 14 people are receiving treatment at Al-Basel Hospital, two of whom are in intensive care," Syria's official news agency SANA reported, quoting Iskandar Ammar, a hospital official.
Lebanon's army said it arrested a Lebanese man who "admitted to organising the recent smuggling operation from Lebanon to Italy by sea".
Lebanon, a country which hosts more than a million refugees from Syria's civil war, has since 2019 been mired in a financial crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern times.
It has become a launchpad for illegal migration, with its own citizens joining Syrian and Palestinian refugees clamouring to leave.
As many as 150 people were on board the small boat that sank off the Syrian port of Tartus, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Tripoli in Lebanon, from where the migrants set sail.
Those on board were mostly Lebanese and Syrians and Palestinians, and included both children and the elderly, the UN said.
Families in Lebanon were to hold a second day of funerals Saturday after they were handed bodies of relatives on Friday night through the Arida border crossing with Syria.
Since 2020, Lebanon has seen a spike in the number of migrants using its shores to attempt the perilous crossing in jam-packed boats to reach Europe.
The UN children's agency, UNICEF, said they had initial reports that 10 children were "among those who lost their lives" in the latest disaster.
"Years of political instability and economic crisis in Lebanon have pushed many children and families into poverty, affecting their health, welfare and education," UNICEF added.
Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said: "No one gets on these death boats lightly. People are taking this perilous decision, risking their lives in search of dignity."
Lazzarini said more must be done "to offer a better future and address a sense of hopelessness in Lebanon and across the region, including among Palestine refugees".
Antonio Vitorino, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said: "People looking for safety should not be compelled to take such perilous and often deadly migration journeys."
Most of the boats setting off from Lebanon head for European Union member Cyprus, an island about 175 kilometres (110 miles) to the west.
Poor Things stars Emma Stone as a horny Frankenstein’s monster coming of age
Govt extends 10 days for receiving Hajj applications
Illegal marriage case against Imran, Bushra declared admissible
Remittances of Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia increase by 6%
PHC prohibits ECP from ruling against PTI
ADB approves over $150 million financing for Pakistan
Winter activity and political turmoil!
Government, opposition and public!
Present regime and dengue!
The repetition of history and the hidden sciences!
Whispers, rumors and rulers' narrative!
PTI Lawyer Naeem Haider Panjotha Brings Exclusive News from Adyala Jail | GNN
Chairman PTI Smart Move | News Headlines | 03 PM | 11 December 2023 | GNN
LIVE | Caretaker Foreign Minister Important Press Conference | GNN
Toshakhana Case Updates | Breaking News | GNN
Imran Khan's Victory #gnn #peshawarhighcourt #imrankhan #news #breaking #latest #video #update
Supreme Court Big Action | Breaking News | GNN
Sports 10 hours ago
From injuries to bad summer moves: Why Man City's Premier League form has dipped
Regional 1 day ago
What kids should know about factory farming, explained by the Chicken Run movies
Pakistan 18 hours ago
Javed Latif rejects PML-N’s alliance with any political party in Punjab
Business 1 day ago
Representatives of leading financial institutions meet Privatization Minister
Pakistan 6 hours ago
Imran, Shah granted bail in different cases
Health 1 day ago
Nawaz Sharif ponders reasons behind his ‘repeated ouster’
Pakistan 23 hours ago
Army Chief leaves for United States on official visit
Entertainment 21 hours ago
Rumors swirl as Amitabh unfollows Aishwarya Rai on Instagram