A boat loaded with passengers capsized north of an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico. Eleven people were confirmed dead, while another 31 were rescued on Thursday, authorities said.
It was not immediately clear how many people were aboard the ship when it capsized, US Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said. He said a “massive rescue effort” was still under way.
“We are looking to rescue 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 those aboard the ship were not immediately known.
A US Customs and Border Protection helicopter spotted the capsized boat Thursday morning.
“If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have found out about this until someone had found some sign or received reports from people that their loved ones are missing,” Castrodad said. “They found them early enough that we could coordinate a response.”
The ship was seen more than 11 miles north of the uninhabited island of Desecheo, off the west coast of Puerto Rico.
The incident was the latest in a series of upheavals across the region as migrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic flee.in their countries.
On Saturday, the US Coast Guard and the Dominican Navy rescued 68 migrants in the Mona Passage, a dangerous area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. A woman believed to be from Haiti was killed, Castrodad said.
“These trips are dangerous,” Castrodad said. “They’re unsafe, they’re heavily overloaded… (and) they don’t have lifesaving equipment. It really wouldn’t take long for these boats to capsize.”
In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the Coast Guard said it apprehended 1,527 Haitians, 838 Cubans and 742 Dominicans in the region, which includes Florida and the Caribbean.
Since then, trips on the people-smuggling boats have only increased, authorities say. In January, the Coast Guard searched for at least 38 people missing off the Florida coast after a suspected people-smuggling boat that had left the Bahamas capsized in a storm. A single survivor was reported.
Hundreds of Haitians have arrived in Florida alone in recent months after swimming ashore.
Haiti is battling a surge in gang-related violence that has killed dozens of people, including women and children, and caused thousands of families to flee their homes. Kidnappings have also skyrocketed, including those of eight Turkish citizens who were forced off a bus they had boarded in the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
Kidnappings in the country of more than 11 million people have increased by 180% and homicides by 17% in the last year, according to the United Nations, which last week expressed concern about “the rapid deterioration of security and human rights”. humans” in Haiti.
Many have criticized the administration of US President Joe Biden for deporting more than 20,000 Haitians in recent months due to the country’s growing turmoil.