(AP) – At least five migrants drowned and another 66 were rescued on Thursday after a suspected human smuggling boat dropped the group off in waters near an uninhabited island west of Puerto Rico, officials said.
Federal and local authorities were still on the scene searching for survivors or others who might have drowned, US Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad told The Associated Press. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were aboard the boat.
Castrodad said 41 men and 25 women survived, including two children. The age and nationality of those who died and were rescued were not immediately known.
Jeffrey Quiñones, spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection, did not immediately return a message for comment.
The boat carrying the migrants fled the scene, and it was unclear how many people were on board at that time, Castrodad said.
The incident is the latest in a string of deadly voyages across the northern Caribbean carrying mostly Haitian migrants fleeing their country amid a spike in gang-related killings and kidnappings.
On Sunday, authorities in the Bahamas recovered the bodies of 17 migrants and rescued 25 others after their boat capsized. A criminal investigation is ongoing.
Meanwhile, in May, 11 Haitian women drowned and 38 others were saved after their boat sank near Puerto Rico.
“This is happening every day,” Castrodad said. “Everyone runs the same risk and same danger.”