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A makeshift boat overloaded with migrants capsized Thursday on its technique to Puerto Rico, officers mentioned, leaving a minimum of 13 individuals lifeless as dozens extra had been rescued.

“We’re hoping to seek out further survivors,” Ricardo Castrodad, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard’s San Juan sector, mentioned Thursday evening as a rescue operation continued. “However it may go each methods.” He mentioned it isn’t clear how many individuals had been on the boat, which he described as “overloaded with individuals.” Crews didn’t see any life jackets, he added.

The Coast Guard mentioned it heard shortly earlier than midday that the aircrew of a Customs and Border Safety plane had noticed the boat and folks within the water. Authorities mentioned the boat was discovered about 10 nautical miles north of Desecheo Island — a patch of land within the Mona Passage, the strait between Puerto Rico and the Caribbean island that features the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The vessel is “suspected of participating in an unlawful voyage,” the Coast Guard mentioned in a information launch. An growing variety of migrants have made comparable treacherous journeys by sea, fleeing international locations the place the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated long-standing issues of poverty and violence.

Thirty-one survivors — 11 girls and 20 males — had been taken to Crash Boat Seashore in Aguadilla, mentioned Jeffrey Quiñones, a regional spokesperson for Customs and Border Safety. He mentioned the boat departed from the Dominican Republic however added that solely two survivors are from that nation.

These rescued embody eight Haitians who had been transported to a hospital in Aguadilla, a city in northwestern Puerto Rico, Quiñones mentioned.

Betsy Rivera, spokesperson for Puerto Rico’s Institute of Forensic Sciences, mentioned the company obtained 13 our bodies because of the ocean accident. It didn’t but have identities or nationalities for the deceased. Autopsies will happen Friday and the company hopes to extract DNA to establish the lifeless.

The institute has been in contact with the Dominican Human Rights Committee, a company it sometimes contacts with all these incidents, to assist establish members of the family on the neighboring island.

Puerto Rico has a big Dominican inhabitants, and unlawful crossings by sea are widespread. Movies circulated on social media seize migrants arriving on common seashores, the place locals generally welcome and cheer them on as they run from authorities.

However the crossings might be perilous. Final week, a lady died after a ship capsized throughout an unlawful voyage by means of the Mona Passage. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Dominican Republic Navy rescued an extra 68 individuals after recognizing them “persistently bailing water out from the makeshift vessel,” officers mentioned.

“This case highlights the risks of unlawful voyages aboard makeshift and grossly overloaded vessels within the Mona Passage,” Capt. José E. Díaz, appearing commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan, mentioned in a press release Saturday.

Castrodad mentioned the form of vessel that capsized Thursday is named a “yola” — a ship with “poor development, all the time taking over water, unseaworthy and designed to attempt to simply get these individuals throughout in a single try.”

The boats might be laborious to detect, he mentioned, so it was lucky that Customs and Border Safety crews noticed the emergency.

Officers mentioned they’re working to interview the survivors and study extra in regards to the scenario.

Rising numbers of Dominicans and Haitians have been intercepted in Puerto Rico and the Mona Passage on “unlawful voyages” lately, in line with U.S. Coast Guard knowledge. In fiscal 2021 — which ran from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021 — 463 Dominican and 15 Haitians had been intercepted by the Coast Guard.

Fifty-three such voyages had been intercepted by the Coast Guard and its companion companies from Oct. 1 of final yr to March 31. Some 1,308 migrants — together with 940 Dominicans and 298 Haitians — had been apprehended, the Coast Guard mentioned.

In keeping with U.S. Coast Guard knowledge, 1,527 Haitians, 742 Dominicans and 838 Cubans making “unlawful voyages” had been intercepted in Florida and the Caribbean within the yr ended Sept. 30, 2021.

Minority Rights Group Worldwide, a human rights nonprofit, mentioned that about 30,000 of 100,000 Dominicans residing in Puerto Rico are believed to be undocumented immigrants. Most of these immigrants stay on the island somewhat than happening to different elements of the US, the nonprofit mentioned.

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