(CNN)An overloaded boat transporting around 60 people who were fleeing Lebanon for an unknown destination capsized near the northern port of Tripoli on Saturday evening, according to the Lebanese Red Cross.
Six drown off Lebanon coast after overloaded boat capsizes, says Lebanese navy
A Lebanese naval official said at least six people, including a girl, died; 45 survivors were rescued. Some of those on board the vessel are still listed as missing, the official added.
Reuters reported that the boat was carrying both Lebanese and Syrian people.
Col. Haitham Dannawi, commander of the Naval Forces in the Lebanese Army, told a press conference that the boat only had capacity to carry six people, though scores were on board at the time of the accident.
"The boat was very old and could only accommodate six people, there were no life jackets, and no other rescue tools," Col. Dannawi said. "We tried to stop them from setting out, but they were quicker than us, we tried to explain to them that the boat was in danger of sinking."
Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati declared an official day of mourning for the victims.
Lebanese citizen Kassem al-Zoeibi, whose relatives survived the capsize, said they had tried to flee the country out of desperation. "Why did they chose this way? It is because there is no way but this way," he told Reuters.
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon, Najat Rochdi, expressed her condolences on Sunday and said UN agencies were on the ground to help.
"It's horrific to see deprivation still pushing people to take a perilous journey across the seas, sacrificing their lives and that of their children in search of a dignified life," Rochdi posted on Twitter.
Over the last three years, Lebanon has faced a severe financial crisis. According to the World Bank, Lebanon's currency has lost more than 90% of its value and the majority of the Lebanese population now lives under the poverty line.