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A cruise ship rescues 68 migrants and finds 5 bodies in a boat adrift in the Atlantic Ocean

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MADRID (AP) — A cruise ship rescued 68 migrants and found five bodies in a traditional fishing boat that was drifting off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, Spain’s maritime rescue agency said Thursday.

It said an oil tanker traveling from northwestern Spain to Brazil spotted the drifting boat on Wednesday afternoon about 815 kilometers (506 miles) south of Tenerife, one of the seven islands in the Canaries archipelago.

Spanish authorities diverted the Insignia, a cruise ship, to rescue the migrants. The Insignia crew also recovered three of the five bodies on the fishing boat. The remains of two people were left at sea because of bad weather hampering their recovery.

The canoe-shaped boats, known as pirogues, are used by fishermen in Mauritania and Senegal.

It is unusual for cruise ships to make rescues of migrants on the Atlantic route, but the pirogue “was a long way out and they could be in danger,” said a maritime rescue’s spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity under departmental rules.

One of the passengers on the cruise ship, Steve Dilbeck from Huntington Beach, California, said they were not told about the dead.

“They did say the boat had been at sea for 20 days,” Dilbeck told The Associated Press in a text message. “We were diverted in the evening and took us two hours to reach them. They were brought on board and placed in the Insignia Lounge, which is where they have all their shows.”

“The area has been closed off to passengers. Told they had them remove their clothes and put on jumpsuits. Then they asked passengers if they had shoes and clothes they could donate, particularly for men. Their announcement said 62 were men, with the rest women and children,” he added.

The Marshall Islands-flagged Insignia had left Mindelo, a port city in Cape Verde, on Tuesday. Its operator, Miami-based Oceania Cruises, did not immediately comment on the rescue.

The Spanish rescue agency emailed a statement saying the Insignia is expected to arrive on Friday at the port of Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

The Canary Islands is a destination for boats packed with migrants departing from northwestern Africa on a perilous Atlantic route in search of a better life in Europe.

Spain’s Interior Ministry says a record 55,618 migrants arrived by boat — most of them in the Canary Islands — last year, almost double the number of the previous year. More than 23,000 have landed so far this year, the ministry said.

The Spanish nonprofit organization Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) says more than 5,000 migrants have died so far this year through May while trying to reach Spanish coasts, most of them on the Atlantic route. The figure for all 2023 was 6,600, more than double the number for 2022.

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Associated Press writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

By TERESA MEDRANO
Associated Press

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