About half of 150 migrants on the boat departing from Lebanon have been reported dead, in what is the deadliest such shipwreck that has departed from the country in recent years.

Lebanon has been seeing a spike in the number of  would-be migrants using its shores to attempt the perilous crossing in overcrowded boats to reach Europe.
Lebanon has been seeing a spike in the number of would-be migrants using its shores to attempt the perilous crossing in overcrowded boats to reach Europe. (Petros Karadjias / File / AP)

At least 73 migrants have died after a boat that set off from Lebanon sank in Syrian waters, a Syrian regime official from the coastal province of Tartus has said.

"The number of victims from the shipwreck has reached 73 people," Syrian regime Health Minister Hassan al Ghabash said in a statement on Friday, adding that 20 survivors were being treated in hospital in Tartus.

A regime official said a day earlier that the boat was carrying up to 150 people and authorities said that 20 survivors were taken to hospital, potentially leaving many people still unaccounted for. 

Syrian authorities initially reported 15 dead, before revising that figure to 28, 34, and 60. At least one child was reported to be among the dead.

Of those rescued, five were Lebanese, Lebanon's caretaker transport minister Ali Hamie said, adding that he was in discussion with his counterpart in Syria to retrieve the bodies of the deceased. 

Many of the boat's Lebanese passengers hail from impoverished regions in the country's north including the city of Tripoli, Lebanon's poorest, which has emerged as an illegal migration hub.

While many of those departing from Lebanon are Syrians, the ever-worsening economic crisis has pushed growing numbers of Lebanese to also attempt the crossing.

READ MORE: Tens of migrants dead after boat from Lebanon sinks off Syria

Perilous crossing

Lebanon, a country which hosts more than a million refugees from Syria's civil war, has been mired in economic crisis for the past three years, prompting a rise in clandestine attempts to leave for the European Union. 

Last year, it a saw a spike in the number of would-be migrants using its shores to attempt the perilous crossing in overcrowded boats to reach Europe.

In April, the sinking of an overcrowded migrant boat pursued by the Lebanese navy off the northern coast of Tripoli killed six people and angered many in the country.

The circumstances of that incident were not entirely clear, with some on board claiming the navy rammed their vessel, while officials insisted the smugglers attempted reckless escape manoeuvres. The government in Beirut ordered an investigation.

On September 13, Türkiye's coastguard announced the death of six migrants, including two babies, and rescued 73 people trying to reach Europe, off the coast of the southwestern province of Mugla.

They had reportedly boarded from Tripoli in Lebanon in an attempt to reach Italy.

Most of the boats setting off from Lebanon head for Greek-administered Cyprus — an EU member — 175 kilometres (110 miles) away.

READ MORE: Türkiye rescues hundreds of refugees in Eastern Mediterranean

Source: TRTWorld and agencies