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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A boat loaded with passengers capsized north of an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico and three people had been confirmed dead while 25 others were rescued Thursday, authorities said.

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

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.”

The boat was several miles north of the uninhabited island of Desecheo, which is off Puerto Rico’s west coast.

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.

On Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard and Dominican navy rescued 68 migrants in the Mona Passage, a treacherous area between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. One woman believed to be from Haiti died, Castrodad said.

“These voyages are dangerous,” Castrodad said. “They’re unsafe, they are grossly overloaded … (and) no lifesaving equipment. It wouldn’t really take much for any of these vessels to capsize.”



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