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Lebanese soldiers and onlookers stand at the entrance of the port of Tripoli, as an ambulaNce carrying survivors from a boat that sank off the coast of the northern city, leaves during the night of April 23, 2022 Image Credit: AFP

Tripoli: Lebanon searched for survivors Sunday after rescuing 45 people and retrieving the corpse of a child from a capsized boat in the eastern Mediterranean loaded with dozens of migrants.

The boat capsized on Saturday night near the coast of the northern city of Tripoli, the departure point for a growing number of people attempting a potentially lethal sea escape from crisis-hit Lebanon.

“The search is ongoing by the Lebanese navy which is looking for survivors,” the director of Tripoli’s port, Ahmed Tamer, told AFP.

The Lebanese Red Cross and Transport Minister Ali Hamie had said around 60 passengers were on board the vessel before it sunk.

Hamie told a local broadcaster on Saturday that 45 people had been rescued and the corpse of one child retrieved from the ship.

According to Tamer, the number of passengers still missing remains unclear.

“We still don’t know how many people were on the boat,” the port chief said.

Lebanon is in the grips of an unprecedented financial crisis, with the currency losing more than 90 percent of its value and the majority of the population living below the poverty line.

The economic crash has spurred an uptick in sea crossings out of the country, with an increasing number of Lebanese joining the ranks of Syrian and Palestinian refugees trying to illegally cross into Europe.

The Lebanese army and security forces were deployed at Tripoli’s port on Sunday where ambulances were on standby to receive survivors.

Relatives of those on board the capsized ship held a vigil at the entrance to the port to await news of their loved ones.

“My nephew, he has five children and his wife is pregnant with twins. He was trying to escape hunger and poverty,” said one man waiting to enter the harbour.

Nissrine Merheb was also waiting for news from her two cousins and their children who were also on board the ship.

“The people of Tripoli are destined to die,” she wrote in a post on Facebook.

“Even when we are trying to run away from the filth of politicians and their corruption... death catches up with us,” she said.