Eleven bodies were discovered and 31 people were rescued in a large rescue operation that continued Thursday night after a ship capsized off Puerto Rico, the US Coast Guard said. The overturned boat, whose initial number of occupants is not known, migrants according to the authorities, had been spotted at midday with several people in the water who did not appear to be equipped with a life jacket.

The coast guards then dispatched several helicopters and a boat to the area concerned, about 18 km from the desert island of Desecheo, west of Puerto Rico. By midnight (Paris time), rescuers had rescued 11 women and 20 men, according to Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad.

An “illegal crossing”?

The American border police had earlier specified that they were mainly migrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The coast guards had indicated in a press release that they “suspected” the ship “of having undertaken an illegal crossing”.

The search, which also involves teams from the police and the Puerto Rican coast guard, is continuing, said Ricardo Castrodad.

Hundreds of Haitians managed to reach Florida during the month of March, while more than a hundred had been intercepted near the Bahamas by the American coast guards. Haiti, the poorest country on the American continent, is going through an acute crisis aggravated by growing insecurity and the corruption of its institutions.

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