At least 11 people were killed and 31 rescued when a boat full of passengers capsized north of Puerto Rico Thursday, officials said.
Eight Haitians were among those saved and hospitalized during a “mass rescue effort” led by the US Coast Guard.
It was unclear how many people were on the capsized vessel, which was first spotted by a US Customs and Border Protection helicopter about 11 miles north of the uninhabited Puerto Rican island of Desecheo, according to authorities.
“We’re looking to rescue as many people as we can and find as many survivors as we can,” US Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said, adding it was fortunate that officials spotted the overturned boat.
“If not for that, we would not have known about this until someone would have found any sign or received reports from people that their loved ones are missing,” Castrodad said. “They found them early enough that we were able to coordinate a response.”
The disaster came after a string of migrant boats transporting people fleeing Haiti and the Dominican Republic capsized in the waters around Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
On Saturday, officials rescued 68 migrants in treacherous waters between Hispaniola and the US territory. One Haitian woman died, according to Castrodad.
More than three dozen migrants were presumed dead off the coast of Florida in January when a smuggling boat from the Bahamas was flipped over in a storm.
In excess of three thousand migrants from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba were detained by the Coast Guard in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean in the 2021 fiscal year, according to the feds.
“These voyages are dangerous,” Castrodad said. “They’re unsafe, they are grossly overloaded … (and) no lifesaving equipment. It wouldn’t really take much for any of these vessels to capsize.”
With AP wires