13 dead and dozens rescued after a migrant boat capsized near Puerto Rico, officials said

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A makeshift boat loaded with migrants capsized Thursday near Puerto Rico, killing at least 13 people and leaving dozens more rescued, officials said.

“We hope to find additional survivors,” said Ricardo Castrodad, a US spokesperson The San Juan Coast Guard announced Thursday evening that rescue operations would continue. “But it can go both ways.” He said it was not clear how many people were on the boat, which he described as “heavy with people.” He added that the crew did not see any life jackets.

The Coast Guard said it heard shortly before noon that an air crew of a Customs and Border Protection aircraft had spotted the boat and people in the waters, about 10 nautical miles north of Deshio Island.

In a press release, the Coast Guard said the ship was “suspected of participating in an illegal voyage.” Jeffrey Quinones, a regional spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said the boat had left the Dominican Republic but added that only two survivors were from that Caribbean country. Among those rescued, he said, were eight Haitians who were taken to a hospital in the northwestern Puerto Rican town of Aguadilla.

Quinones said 31 survivors – 11 women and 20 men – were taken to Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla.

Betsy Rivera, a spokeswoman for the Puerto Rican Institute of Forensic Sciences, said the agency received 13 bodies as a result of the sea accident. They do not yet have the identities or nationalities of the deceased. An autopsy will be conducted on Friday and they hope to extract DNA to identify the dead.

The institute has been in contact with the Dominican Human Rights Commission, an organization they usually contact with these types of incidents, to help identify family members on the neighboring island.

An increasing number of immigrants made similar treacherous journeys by sea, fleeing from the countries in which they are Corona Virus The pandemic has exacerbated chronic problems of poverty and violence.

According to US Coast Guard data, 1,527 Haitians, 742 Dominicans and 838 Cubans were intercepted making “illegal voyages” in Florida and the Caribbean in the year ending September 30, 2021.

In Puerto Rico and the Mona Pass that separates it from the Dominican Republic, 53 flights were intercepted by the Coast Guard and its partner agencies between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. About 1,308 migrants — including 940 Dominicans and 298 Haitians — the Coast Guard said were arrested.

Castrodad said the type of ship that capsized on Thursday is known as a “yola” — a boat with “poor build, always full of water, unseaworthy and designed to try to cross these people in one attempt.”

The boats are difficult to spot, he said, so it was fortunate that CBP crews spotted the emergency.