Rescue Underway After Boat Suspected to Be Carrying Migrants Capsizes off Puerto Rico

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Federal and state authorities in Puerto Rico are looking for possible survivors after a boat suspected to be carrying undocumented migrants overturned on Thursday near Desecheo Island, a national wildlife refuge off Puerto Rico’s western shores.

“They’re on the scene trying to rescue as many people as they can,” U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter spotted the capsized vessel and people in the water and Coast Guard watchstanders were alerted at about 11:47 am. The two federal agencies are collaborating with maritime units of the Puerto Rico Police Department.

The boat capsized 10 nautical miles from the uninhabited island in the Mona Passage, the stretch of water between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. The treacherous water passage is a common route of illegal voyages from the Dominican Republic and Haiti traveling to Puerto Rico. The nationalities of the people in the water were not immediately known, nor was the number of people in the boat when it capsized. The passengers appeared to not be wearing life jackets.

“We are always sending messages so that people understand the dangers associated with these trips, but unfortunately in this case we are already in a situation that we have to respond to,” said Castrodad.