Cruise ship rescues 68 migrants hundreds of miles off Spanish coast

Authorities on Thursday said it rescued 63 people from a boat in the vicinity of Port La Restinga on the south of El Hierro island. That same day it announced a cruise ship rescued 68 people from a boat found adrift hundreds of miles away from the Spanish coast. Photo courtesy of Salvamento Maritimo/X

June 21 (UPI) -- A cruise ship rescued 68 migrants adrift hundreds of nautical miles off the coast of Spain's Canary Islands, according to the European nation's maritime rescue agency.

The bulk carrier Philipp Oldendorff spotted the small boat about 440 nautical miles south of Tenerife on Wednesday, with its crew providing assistance to those aboard while the Insignia cruise ship diverted from its original route to aid in the rescue, Salvamento Maritimo said in a statement on X.

A total 68 people were rescued by Insignia, it said. There were two reported deaths, and their bodies were unable to be retrieved from the small boat due to adverse weather.

A migrant rescued in critical condition later died before an evacuation helicopter could arrive, it added.

The rescued migrants have been identified as 62 men, three women and three minors. All were from sub-Sahara Africa, the agency said.

Maritime rescue has mobilized a vessel to attempt to locate the small boat that is now covered with a reflector provided by the Insignia, but weather conditions are adverse, it said.

In gratitude for Insignia's assistance, a plaque presentation ceremony is being planned by Tenerife, it added.

The number of migrants arriving to Spain by sea has exploded in the last year.

According government figures, as of June 15, 23,037 migrants have arrived in the European nation via the ocean this year, up from 10,824 during the same period last year.

On Thursday, the agency said it rescued 63 people from a boat in the vicinity of Port La Restinga on the south of El Hierro island.

All were also from sub-Sahara Africa.

Earlier this month, it rescued 145 migrants from sub-Sahara Africa, including 132 men, nine women and four minors, from a boat near Tenerife.