Lebanon buries dead in migrant boat sinking that killed 7

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) — Funerals were held across northern Lebanon on Monday for seven people killed when a boat packed with migrants sank over the weekend as the Lebanese navy tried to force it back to shore.

The small vessel was carrying at least 60 people — many times its capacity — when the disaster struck Saturday night. The tragedy was the latest in a growing trend involving mostly Lebanese and Syrians trying to travel to Europe from Lebanon in search of better lives. The U.N. has said the vessel was carrying 84.

The navy rescued 47 people and and some are still missing. In a rare move, the British military assisted in search and rescue operations off the coast by deploying a helicopter to assist Lebanese forces.

Among those laid to rest Monday were Sarah Ahmed Talib and her 4-year-old daughter from the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city.

“My brother and his wife are missing. We have seven people missing. And this is the funeral of the wife of my nephew and my nephew’s daughter,” said Abo Mohmoud, a relative. “The rest are still missing.”

Women wailed from balconies in Tripoli as bodies were carried to the mosque and bursts of gunfire rang out in mourning. A weeping man carried the body of a child wrapped in white.

Dozens attended the funerals while Lebanese army personnel stood guard nearby.

The migrant vessel had set off from the coastal town of Qalamoun on Saturday night, Lebanese officials have said, adding that no precautionary measures were taken and no one was wearing life vests when the boat meant to carry only six people capsized later that night.

Survivors blame the Lebanese navy for sinking the ship, saying a naval vessel rammed the vessel while trying to force it back to shore.

An extraordinary Cabinet session was scheduled for Tuesday focusing on the boat incident and security situation in different parts of the country.

Angry residents attacked a main army checkpoint in Tripoli on Sunday, throwing stones at troops who responded by firing into the air. Some shops closed as angry men blocked several streets in Tripoli, Lebanon’s most impoverished city. There were no reports of injuries.

Since Lebanon’s economic meltdown began in October 2019, hundreds have left on boats hoping for a better life in Europe, paying smugglers thousands of dollars. Many have made it to European countries, while others have been stopped and forced to return home by the Lebanese navy.

The U.N. has reported a sharp rise in sea departures since 2020. Several people have lost their lives on the way to Europe over the past three years.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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