A boat loaded with suspected migrants capsized north of an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico and 11 people had been confirmed dead while 20 men and 11 women were rescued Thursday, authorities said. It wasn't immediately clear how many people were aboard the boat when it turned over, said US Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad. He said a "mass rescue effort" was still underway. "We're 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 the hospital, although the nationalities of all those aboard the boat were not immediately known, reports the AP.
A US Customs and Border Protection helicopter spotted the overturned boat late Thursday morning. "If not for that, we would not have known about this until someone would have found any sign or received reports from people that their loved ones are missing," Castrodad said. “They found them early enough that we were able to coordinate a response.” The boat was spotted more than 11 miles north of the uninhabited island of Desecheo. The incident was the latest in a string of capsizings across the region as migrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic flee violence and poverty in their countries.
On Saturday the US Coast Guard and Dominican navy rescued 68 migrants in the Mona Passage, a treacherous area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. "These voyages are dangerous,” Castrodad said. “They're unsafe, they are grossly overloaded ... (and) no lifesaving equipment. It wouldn't really take much for any of these vessels to capsize." Kidnappings in the Dominican Republic have increased 180% and homicides are up 17% in the past year, according to the UN, which last week expressed concern over "the rapid deterioration of security and human rights" in Haiti. Many have criticized the Biden administration for deporting more than 20,000 Haitians in recent months given the country's deepening turmoil.
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