At least 11 people died and 31 others were rescued after a boat carrying suspected migrants capsized north of Puerto Rico on Thursday, authorities said.
According to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft crew sighted a capsized vessel at 11:47 a.m. Some of the people in the water did not appear to be wearing life jackets, The New York Times reported.
The boat was spotted approximately 10 nautical miles north of Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico, according to the Coast Guard, which characterized the vessel as “taking part in an illegal voyage.”
“We’re hoping to find additional survivors,” Ricardo Castrodad, a spokesperson for Coast Guard’s San Juan sector, told The Washington Post. “But it could go both ways.”
Castrodad told the newspaper that it was unclear how many people were on the boat.
Most of the passengers were from Haiti, but two survivors were from the Dominican Republic, Jeffrey Quiñones, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told the Times. Those rescued include eight Haitians who were transported to a hospital in Aguadilla, a town in northwestern Puerto Rico, according to the Post.
The Coast Guard said the survivors included 20 men and 11 women, The Associated Press reported.
The boat left from the Dominican Republic and was traveling toward the western side of Puerto Rico, Quiñones told the Times.
He added that based on the accounts from the survivors, the vessel was taking on water.
“It appears that the boat broke because it’s not a boat that’s made for such a voyage,” Quiñones told the newspaper. “With a lot of people inside the boat, of course this could happen.”
More than 3,200 migrants were apprehended while trying to reach the United States by sea during the 2021 fiscal year, the Times reported. According to Coast Guard data, 1,527 Haitians, 742 Dominicans and 838 Cubans making “illegal voyages” were intercepted in Florida and the Caribbean, the Post reported.
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