5 dead, 68 migrants rescued from waters near Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — At least five migrants drowned and 68 others were rescued 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 searched the area near Mona Island for several hours but determined that no additional people were missing, based on interviews with survivors, US Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad told The Associated Press.

He said 41 men, 25 women and two children survived, adding that none had any urgent medical issues.

Jeffrey Quiñones, spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection, said the age and nationality of those who died and were rescued were not immediately known.

The boat carrying the migrants fled the scene, 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 more after their boat capsized. A criminal investigation is underway.

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."

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