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ARIDA BORDER CROSSING, Lebanon (AP) — At least 77 people were killed when a boat carrying migrants from Lebanon sank off Syria this week, the country’s health minister said Friday, amid fears the death toll could be far higher.

The incident was deadliest so far as a surging number of Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians have been trying to flee crisis-hit Lebanon by sea for a better future in Europe. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs while the Lebanese pound has dropped more than 90% in value, eradicating the purchasing power of thousands of families that now live in extreme poverty.

Syrian authorities said victims' relatives have started crossing from Lebanon into Syria to help identify their loved ones and retrieve their bodies. The vessel left Lebanon on Tuesday and news of what happened first started to emerge on Thursday afternoon. The boat was carrying Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinians.

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