BEIRUT — The Lebanese military Sunday recovered the bodies of five migrants whose boat carrying nearly 60 people capsized the night before, raising the death toll to six, state media reported.
Several survivors told local TV stations that the Lebanese navy is to blame for the accident. They said a military ship rammed their migrant boat twice, damaging it, in an effort to force it to return to the coast.
The military said it would hold a news conference later Sunday to explain what happened. Survivors called on the military to bring in officers involved for questioning.
Earlier on Sunday, the Lebanese military announced that 47 people were rescued and the body of a young girl was recovered. The military said high waves submerged the boat, which was carrying more people than it could hold.
Several of the rescued were treated on the spot while others were taken to nearby hospitals. One person was detained on suspicion of being a smuggler who sent the migrants, the military said.
Search operations began Saturday night after the boat, apparently heading to Europe, capsized shortly after leaving the coastal Lebanese town of Qalamoun.
For many years Lebanon was a country that took in refugees, but since the country’s economic meltdown began in October 2019, hundreds of people have left on boats hoping for a better life in Europe.
Migrants from Lebanon pay thousands of dollars to smugglers to take them to Europe hoping for a better life. Hundreds have made it to European countries, while dozens of others have been stopped and forced to return home by the Lebanese navy. Several people have lost their lives on the way to Europe over the past three years.
Lebanon, a small Mediterranean nation of 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees, is in the grip of the worst economic crisis in the country’s modern history. The economic meltdown has put more three-quarters of the country’s population into poverty.
The World Bank describes the crisis as among the worst in the world since the 1850s. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value.