Eleven killed, 31 rescued after boat capsizes near Puerto Rico

The content originally appeared on: Al Jazeera – Latin America News

At least 11 people have died and 31 others were rescued after a boat capsized north of an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico.

The United States Coast Guard, which conducted the rescue on Thursday, said most of the survivors were from Haiti or the Dominican Republic.

A “mass rescue effort” continued overnight into Friday, Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said.

“We’re looking to rescue as many people as we can and find as many survivors as we can,” he said.

The deadly incident comes amid an uptick in Haitians and other migrants attempting the dangerous water passage to the US.

From October 2021 to March 2022, 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.

In the fiscal year 2021, 310 Haitians and 354 Dominicans were detained, compared with the 22 Haitians and 313 Dominicans apprehended in the fiscal year 2020, according to the agency.

The incident comes less than a week after the US Coast Guard and the Dominican navy on Saturday rescued 68 migrants in the Mona Passage, a treacherous area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. One woman believed to be from Haiti died in that incident.

Those rescued on Thursday, 11 women and 20 men, were taken to Puerto Rico, where eight were treated at a local hospital, according to authorities.

The identities of the 11 dead were not immediately known.

The uptick in people fleeing Haiti has accompanied a surge in gang-related violence in the country that has killed dozens of people, including women and children. Homicides are up by 17 percent in the country, according to the United Nations.

Kidnappings, meanwhile, have increased by 180 percent. Most recently, on Sunday, eight Turkish citizens were forced off a bus they had boarded in the Dominican Republic and kidnapped in Haiti.

The UN last week expressed concern over “the rapid deterioration of security and human rights” in the country, which is also experiencing a political crisis in the wake of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021.