The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, described the shipwreck as a “heart-wrenching tragedy” and the search for those still missing continued beyond nightfall Saturday.
At least 14 survivors were recovering in hospitals in Syria, 6 others were discharged, and 2 remain in intensive care in Al-Basel Hospital, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported earlier.
“The death toll from the boat that sank off the coast of Tartus has risen to 94,” state television said.
The Lebanese Army said that it had arrested a Lebanese national who admitted to organizing the recent smuggling operation from Lebanon to Italy by sea.
In Tripoli, anger mixed with grief as relatives received news of the death of their loved ones.
Hundreds of people gathered Saturday in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, north of Tripoli, for the funeral procession of one of the victims, pumping their fists in the air.
Mustafa Misto embarked on a sea voyage from crisis-hit Lebanon seeking a better life for his family, but he drowned in a shipwreck alongside his children and dozens of others, relatives said.
“His dream was not to obtain another nationality, but simply to enroll his children in a school and feed them,” his relative Jihad al-Maneh said.
Lebanon, which since 2019 has been mired in a financial crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern times, has become a launchpad for illegal migration.
Its desperate citizens are joining Syrian and Palestinian refugees clamoring to leave the country, where more than 80% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Misto, a taxi driver, and his 3 children were among the people who died when the boat they boarded in northern Lebanon sank off Syria’s coast on Thursday, in one of the deadliest such tragedies in the eastern Mediterranean nation.