Nine dead, 48 rescued after migrant boat sinks off Lebanon
A Lebanese man who lost five of his friends in an illegal immigrant boat that drowned off the coast of Lebanon’s port city of Tripoli confronts Lebanese soldiers at the entrance of the seaport. The Lebanese military announced that 48 people were rescued and some bodies were recovered from the migrant boat. Marwan Naamani/dpa
A Lebanese man who lost five of his friends in an illegal immigrant boat that drowned off the coast of Lebanon’s port city of Tripoli confronts Lebanese soldiers at the entrance of the seaport. The Lebanese military announced that 48 people were rescued and some bodies were recovered from the migrant boat. Marwan Naamani/dpa

The Lebanese army rescued 48 people this weekend after the boat they were using in an attempt to flee the country sank off the northern city of Tripoli, state news agency NNA reported on Sunday.

The boat was carrying 60 people when it capsized on Saturday due to high waves and overloading, the agency quoted an army statement as saying.

Operations are under way to retrieve others who are still missing.

So far, nine bodies have been recovered.

Eight were recovered on Sunday, Lebanese TV broadcaster Al Jadeed reported, quoting Minister of Public Works and Transport Ali Hamieh. The body of a girl was retrieved late on Saturday, according to NNA.

One Lebanese man was detained on suspicion of involvement in smuggling the migrants, the army said.

The boat was carrying Lebanese and foreign migrants seeking to reach Europe when it sank, Lebanese media reported.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun ordered an investigation, the state news agency reported.

One survivor blamed the mishap on a navy boat.

"As we approached Tripoli and were trying to enter international waters, a navy boat came near and asked us to stop," Naji Fawal, a Lebanese survivor, said.

"The navy boat circled several times around our boat, which didn't stop and crashed into the navy boat and sank," he told dpa.

Fawal said he was attempting to leave Lebanon due to what he called "unbearable life" in the country.

However, a Lebanese army official said the boat had crashed into the navy boat while trying to escape.

"The boat sank because of overload," commander of the army's navy, Haitham Dinnawi said, according to al-Jadeed TV.

"Had not our personnel been near it, the number of victims would have been higher."

The permitted load of the sunken boat, built in 1974, was 10 people only, and it lacked safety equipment, Dinnawi added.

Lebanon is experiencing its worst financial crisis in decades. The World Bank has described the crisis as among the world's most severe since the mid-1800s.

In Tunisia, coastguards Sunday recovered the bodies of 17 migrants who had died in the sinking of four boats off the coastal city of Sfax, an official said.

“They drowned due to the sinking of the boats since Friday,” spokesman for Sfax courts Murad Turki told dpa.

Coastguards have so far rescued 97 people in the incidents, while the search continues for others who have gone missing.

“Tombs in Sfax are under pressure due to the high numbers of illegal migration victims,” Turki added.

The Tunisian coast has become a common launch point for thousands of migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

Lebanese army rescuers on board a navy vessel scan the water off the shore of the Lebanese northern port city of Tripoli in search of survivors after a boat carrying illegal immigrants sank off the coast. The Lebanese military announced that 48 people were rescued and some bodies were recovered from the migrant boat. Marwan Naamani/dpa
Lebanese army helicopters scan the water off the shore of the Lebanese northern port city of Tripoli in search of survivors after a boat carrying illegal immigrants sank off the coast. The Lebanese military announced that 48 people were rescued and some bodies were recovered from the migrant boat. Marwan Naamani/dpa