11 dead, 38 rescued after boat capsizes near Puerto Rico

36 Haitian, 2 Dominican Republic nationals pulled alive from water, unclear how many aboard

United States Coast Guard photos show the rescue mission after a boat capsized near Puerto Rico. (USCG Southeast)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A boat loaded with suspected migrants capsized north of an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico and 11 people are confirmed dead while 38 others were rescued in the latest update, authorities said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were aboard the boat when it turned over, said U.S. 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.

As of 9:15 a.m. Friday, the USCG Southeast sent an update stating that there were 38 survivors, of which 36 were Haitian and 2 Dominican Republic nationals, of which eight remain hospitalized. They confirmed that the number of those dead remained at 11.

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.

The U.S. Coast Guard Seventh District reported that partner agencies were responding to an unidentified amount of people in the water approximately 12 miles north of the uninhabited island of Desecheo, which is off Puerto Rico’s west coast.

A U.S. 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.”

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Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.