Death toll of migrants off Syrian coast has risen to more than 50


More bodies have been retrieved from the Syrian coast after a boat carrying migrants aiming for Europe sank, raising the death toll to more than 50, a monitor group, Syrian and Lebanese sources said on Friday.

A Syrian medical source revealed that 17 bodies were found early Friday, among them women and children. On Thursday, the state-run Syrian News Agency SANA said 34 people died after a migrant boat sank off Syria.

A source at the Syrian Transport Ministry said some survivors were also found who were taken to hospital in the Syrian coastal city of Tartus for treatment.

A Lebanese source in the port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon said that the boat, which was carrying some 120-150 migrants of different nationalities including Lebanese and Syrians, had left Miniyeh near Tripoli on Tuesday for the Greek coast.

"They were aiming to reach Europe ... People are desperate; they want to leave Lebanon because the living conditions are unbearable," Ahmad Tilawi, a relative of one of the boat victims, said from Tripoli.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, confirmed the death toll had reached 51 and said that the search and rescue operations were continuing and that the number was likely to increase.

The boat capsized in Syrian territorial waters, opposite the island of Arwad off Tartus, the observatory said.

Lebanon's deteriorating economic situation has led many Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian refugees to try and reach Europe illegally, risking the perilous sea route in the hope of better conditions.    (dpa)

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