One child has died but more than 40 people have been rescued following the sinking of a boat off the coast of Lebanon's northern port city of Tripoli on Saturday, Transport Minister Ali Hamie told Reuters.
The Lebanese Red Cross said in a tweet that there were about 60 people on board and said it had dispatched more than a dozen ambulances to the scene.
An AFP correspondent said the army had closed off the port, allowing entry only to ambulances which were zipping in and out.
"We are still looking for the remainder of those who were on the boat, which included both Lebanese and Syrians," Hamie said.
An agitated crowd had begun to gather around the port by midnight, a Reuters witness reported.
The Lebanese government said in a statement that Prime Minister Najib Mikati was following the sinking of a boat carrying passengers that departed illegally from the Qalamoun area, south of Tripoli.
"This happened because of the politicians who forced unemployed Lebanese to leave the country," said one man waiting for news of a relative outside the port.
Lebanon's economic crisis has pushed waves of Lebanese as well as Syrian refugees to try the dangerous sea journey to Europe on small dinghies.
Tripoli is Lebanon's second city and is the poorest city on the Mediterranean, according to the United Nations' Habitat program.
The UN refugee agency says at least 1,570 people, 186 of them Lebanese, left or tried to leave illegally by sea from Lebanon between January and November 2021.
Most were hoping to reach European Union member Cyprus, an island 175 kilometers away.