Migrants arrive, in a wooden boat, at the port of Los Cristianos in the south of the island of Tenerife Spain, October 6, 2023. REUTERS/Borja Suarez
Cruise Ship Rescues 68 Migrants, Discovers 5 Bodies off Canary Islands

A cruise ship rescued 68 migrants and found five bodies on a traditional fishing boat drifting off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, Spain’s maritime rescue agency reported Thursday.

The rescue operation began when 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 Canary Islands.

Spanish authorities redirected the cruise ship Insignia to assist. The Insignia’s crew rescued the migrants and recovered three of the five bodies found on the fishing boat. Due to bad weather, the remains of two individuals were left at sea.

The boat, a pirogue, is a type commonly used by fishermen in Mauritania and Senegal. While it is unusual for cruise ships to rescue migrants on the Atlantic route, the pirogue was far out at sea and the migrants were in significant danger, said a maritime rescue spokesperson, who spoke anonymously under departmental rules.

Steve Dilbeck, a passenger from Huntington Beach, California, said passengers were not informed about the dead. “They did say the boat had been at sea for 20 days,” Dilbeck told The Associated Press via text message. “We were diverted in the evening, and it took us two hours to reach them. They were brought on board and placed in the Insignia Lounge, where they hold their shows.”

“The area has been closed off to passengers. They had them remove their clothes and put on jumpsuits. Then they asked passengers if they had shoes and clothes to donate, particularly for men. The 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.

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