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11 dead after boat believed to be carrying migrants capsizes off Puerto Rico

11 dead after boat believed to be carrying migrants capsizes off Puerto Rico

Eleven people died Thursday after a boat believed to be carrying dozens of migrants capsized off Puerto Rico, authorities said.

None of the people spotted in the water during a “mass rescue” effort about 10 miles north of Desecho Island appeared to be wearing life jackets, the Coast Guard said in a release.

As of Thursday night, 31 survivors had been found in what the Coast Guard described as a suspected “illegal voyage.”

The Coast Guard attempts to rescue migrants on a boat that capsized off Puerto Rico.@USCGSoutheast via Twitter

The origin of the vessel and the nationalities of all those aboard weren’t immediately known. A Coast Guard spokesman told The Associated Press that eight Haitians had been hospitalized.

The Coast Guard launched the effort after personnel on a Customs and Border Protection helicopter saw the overturned boat shortly before noon.

“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,” the spokesman, Ricardo Castrodad, told the AP.

In January, a single survivor was rescued after a 25-foot boat capsized off Florida after it left the Bahamas carrying dozens in a suspected smuggling operation.

The man was found by a commercial mariner who saw him clinging to the overturned boat.

The Coast Guard said the number of Haitian migrants it has intercepted has swelled to nearly 4,500 since October, up from 1,500 in all of fiscal year 2021 and just over 400 in fiscal year 2020.

The apparent surge in migrants comes as the country — one of the poorest in the world — has seen violent gang fights leave hundreds displaced and dozens killed and injured in its capital city, according to the United Nations.

Earlier this year, a U.N. official said the country was in the throes of an “acute political and institutional crisis.”

Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

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