11 dead, 31 rescued after boat capsizes near Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A boat loaded with suspected migrants capsized north of an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico, leaving 11 people dead and 31 others rescued Thursday, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear how many people were on board when it capsized, said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodand. He said a “mass rescue effort” was still under way.

“We are trying to save as many people as we can and find as many survivors as we can,” he said.

At least eight Haitians were taken to hospital, although the nationalities of all on board were not immediately known.

The incident was the latest in a series of upheavals across the region as migrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic fled violence and poverty in their home countries.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter spotted the boat that capsized late Thursday morning.

“If not, we would not have known it until someone found signs or received reports from people that their loved ones were missing,” Castrodand said. “They found them early enough that we could coordinate an answer.”

The boat was spotted more than 18 kilometers north of the uninhabited island of Desecheo, off the west coast of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Coast Guard said 20 men and 11 women were rescued.

The reversal comes less than a week after the U.S. Coast Guard and the Dominican Navy on Saturday rescued 68 migrants across the Mona Pass, an insidious area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. A woman believed to be from Haiti has died, Castrodad said.

“These trips are dangerous,” Castrodad said. “It’s not safe, it’s too overloaded … (and) without life-saving equipment. It wouldn’t really take long for any of these boats to capsize.”

From October 2021 to March, 571 Haitians and 252 people from the Dominican Republic were detained in waters around Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, according to US Customs and Border Protection. The majority of these Haitians, 348 of them, landed on the uninhabited island of Mona in Puerto Rico and were rescued.

In fiscal year 2021, 310 Haitians and 354 Dominicans were detained, compared to 22 Haitians and 313 Dominicans arrested in fiscal year 2020.

The U.S. Coast Guard, meanwhile, said the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 had arrested 1,527 Haitians, 838 Cubans and 742 people from the Dominican Republic in the area, which includes Florida and the Caribbean.

Since then, human trafficking has increased, authorities say.

In January, the Coast Guard searched for at least 38 missing people off the coast of Florida after a suspected human smuggling boat that had departed from the Bahamas capsized in a storm. Only one survivor was reported.

Hundreds of Haitians have arrived alone in Florida in recent months after swimming ashore.

Haiti is battling an outbreak of gang-related violence that has killed dozens of people, including women and children, and forced thousands of families to flee their homes. Kidnappings also rose, including those of eight Turkish nationals who were forced off the bus in the Dominican Republic on Sunday.

Abductions of more than 11 million people in the country have risen by 180% and homicides by 17% last year, according to the United Nations, which last week expressed concern about “rapidly deteriorating security and human rights”. in Haiti.

Many have criticized the government of US President Joe Biden for deporting more than 20,000 Haitians in recent months, given the country’s deepest unrest.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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11 dead, 31 rescued after boat capsizes near Puerto Rico Source link 11 dead, 31 rescued after boat capsizes near Puerto Rico

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