A boat carrying passengers capsized on the north side of an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico. 11 people have been confirmed dead and 31 have been rescued, authorities said.
“It was not immediately known how many people were on the ship when it capsized,” said Ricardo Castrodad, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Coast Guard. He said “mass rescue efforts” are still ongoing.
“We’re trying to save as many people as possible and looking for as many survivors as possible,” he said.
The nationalities of all people on the boat were not immediately known, but at least eight Haitians were taken to hospital.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter found an overturned boat late Thursday morning.
“Otherwise we wouldn’t have known about this until someone looked for signs or received reports that loved ones were missing,” Castrodad said. “They found them early enough so we could adjust our response.”
The boat was found more than 11 miles north of Dececeo, an uninhabited island off Puerto Rico’s west coast.
It was the latest in a series of overturning events across the region as migrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic fled.in their country.
On Saturday, the US Coast Guard and the Dominican Navy rescued 68 migrants from the Mona Passage, a dangerous area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Castrodad said a woman, believed to be of Haiti, had died.
“This voyage is dangerous,” Castrodad said. “They’re not safe, they’re heavily overloaded… (and) no lifesaving equipment. It won’t really take much time for one of these ships to capsize.”
In the fiscal year that ended September 30, the Coast Guard said it had arrested 1,527 Haitians, 838 Cubans and 742 people in the Dominican Republic in the region, which includes Florida and the Caribbean.
Since then, traffickers’ voyages have only increased, authorities say. In January, Coast Guard searched at least 38 people missing off the coast of Florida after a trafficking boat suspected of leaving the Bahamas overturned in a storm. The only survivor has been reported.
Hundreds of Haitians have arrived in Florida alone in recent months after swimming on the beach.
Haiti is struggling with a surge in gang-related violence that has killed dozens of people, including women and children, and left thousands of families out of their homes. Kidnappings also surged, including eight Turkish citizens who were forcibly kicked off a bus they rode in the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
Abductions and homicides rose by 180% and homicides by 17% in countries with more than 11 million people, according to the United Nations, which last week expressed concerns about Haiti’s “rapid deterioration in security and human rights”, according to the United Nations.
Many criticized US President Joe Biden for deporting more than 20,000 Haitians in recent months.