Syrian official says at least 77 dead in migrant boat sinking


Syrian health minister announced Friday that at least 77 people had died in the sinking of a migrant boat off the coast of Syria earlier this week, despite concerns that the actual death toll may have been much higher.

The episode was the bloodiest thus far because an increasing number of Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians have been trying to exit crisis-torn Lebanon by sea in hopes of finding better lives in Europe. The value of the Lebanese pound has fallen more than 90%, causing tens of thousands of people to lose their employment, and thousands of families who were once middle class are now living in terrible poverty because they have no money to buy anything.

The relatives of the victims, according to Syrian authorities, have begun to enter into Syria from Lebanon to assist in recovering the bodies and identifying their loved ones.

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According to Mohammed Hassan Ghabbash, the health minister for Syria, 20 individuals have been saved and are being treated at the al-Basel hospital in Tartus, a seaside city, in the country. With order to aid in the search operations, medical authorities have been on high alert since Thursday afternoon, the speaker noted.

With a population of 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon has experienced a catastrophic economic downturn that has pushed more than three-quarters of the population into poverty as of late 2019.

It used to be a nation that took in refugees from wars and crises in the Middle East, but the current economic crisis, which is the result of years of mismanagement and corruption, has drastically changed that.

Hyperinflation has caused prices to soar, leading many people to sell their possessions to pay smugglers to convey them to Europe as the migration has increased recently.

(With inputs from agencies)

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