Funerals were held across northern Lebanon for six people killed when a boat packed with migrants and asylum seekers sank over the weekend as the Lebanese navy tried to force it back to shore.

The tragedy triggered small protests on Sunday, one cutting a main road into Tripoli, another staged outside the morgue where victims' bodies were taken.
The tragedy triggered small protests on Sunday, one cutting a main road into Tripoli, another staged outside the morgue where victims' bodies were taken. (AP)

Lebanese rescue teams have been searching the Mediterranean for survivors after an overloaded boat carrying migrants and asylum seekers capsized while being pursued by naval forces.

At least six people died as a result of the tragedy late on Saturday off the northern port city of Tripoli. 

Officials had reported a seventh victim on Monday but it later turned out that one of the bodies recovered had been tallied twice.

Among those laid to rest were Sar ah Ahmed Talib and her 4-year-old daughter from the Bab al Tabbaneh neighborhood of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city.

“My brother and his wife are missing. We have seven people missing. And this is the funeral of the wife of my nephew and my nephew’s daughter,” said Abo Mohmoud, a relative. “The rest are still missing.”

Mourners wailed from balconies and fired their guns into the air as bodies were carried to the mosque. Dozens attended the funerals while Lebanese army personnel stood guard nearby.

"Our state is worth nothing," said Ali Taleb, 23, who was burying his sister and niece.

The sea accident, Lebanon's worst such disaster in years, ignited widespread public anger just three weeks before parliamentary elections in the small country hit by a severe economic crisis.

READ MORE: UN: Lebanon's crisis exposes children to deadly diseases

Overloaded craft

The Lebanese army said on Sunday that 48 people had been rescued, but it was not immediately clear exactly how many would-be asylum seekers were crammed onto the boat when it set off.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said the boat was carrying at least 84 people when it capsized about 5.5 kilometres off the coast — which would leave some 30 people still unaccounted for.

The passengers included Syrian and Palestinian refugees but most were Lebanese, according to local media.

The circumstances that led the small and overloaded craft to sink were not entirely clear, with some survivors claiming the navy rammed into their boat.

Meanwhile, officials insist the smuggler attempted reckless escape manoeuvres.

READ MORE: Refugee boat sinks off coast of Lebanon with dozens on board

Source: TRTWorld and agencies