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Death toll of a capsized boat boarding immigration seekers hits 71 -- official

BEIRUT, Sept 23 (KUNA) -- Death toll of a boat that had gone adrift and capsized off the Syrian coast has climbed to 71, a Lebanese official announced on Friday.
Ali Hamiyah, Minister of Transports in the caretaking government, told KUNA the death toll of the ill-fated boat that boarded a large number of people seeking illegal immigration climbed to 71.
The boat that set sail from northern Lebanon, on Thursday, drifted into the nearby Syrian territorial waters and turned over off the coastal Syrian city Tartous.
Minister Hamiyah said the Syrian authorities told him that there were 22 survivors, including 12 Syrians, five Lebanese and three Palestinians. The Syrian authorities, he added, allowed the victims' relatives to cross to the Syrian side and inquire about their loved ones at hospitals in Tartous.
For his part, George Kattaneh, Secretary General of the Lebanese Red Cross, told the Kuwaiti news agency that his teams would transport the victims to Lebanon but asked their relatives to identify them first.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese Presidency said in a statement President Michel Aoun followed up closely on information related to the tragic accident and instructed authorities to aid the injured and salvage the corpses from the sea. (end) ayb.rk