A boat loaded with suspected migrants on Thursday capsized north of an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico, and 11 people had been confirmed dead while 31 others were rescued, authorities said.
It was not immediately clear how many people were aboard the boat when it turned over, US Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said, adding that a “mass rescue effort” was still underway.
“We’re looking to rescue as many people as we can and find as many survivors as we can,” he said.
Photo: AFP / Handout / US Coast Guard
At least eight Haitians were taken to the hospital, although the nationalities of all those aboard the boat were not immediately known.
The incident was the latest in a string of capsizings across the region, as migrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic flee violence and poverty in their countries.
A US Customs and Border Protection helicopter spotted the overturned boat late on Thursday morning.
“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 boat was spotted more than 18km north of the uninhabited Desecheo Island, which is off Puerto Rico’s west coast.
The US Coast Guard said that those rescued were 20 men and 11 women.
The capsizing came less than a week after the US Coast Guard and Dominican navy on Saturday rescued 68 migrants in the Mona Passage, a treacherous area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
One woman believed to be from Haiti died, Castrodad said.
“These voyages are dangerous,” Castrodad said. “They’re unsafe, they are grossly overloaded ... [and have] no lifesaving equipment. It wouldn’t really take much for any of these vessels to capsize.”
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