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Cruise ship rescues 68 migrants drifting off Spain’s Canary Islands

<i>Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Migrants were helped by emergency staff members at Santa Cruz de Tenerife's pier
Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Migrants were helped by emergency staff members at Santa Cruz de Tenerife's pier

By Sharon Braithwaite, CNN

(CNN) — A luxury cruise ship rescued 68 migrants drifting off the Spanish Canary Islands on Wednesday, Spain’s maritime rescue agency said in a statement on X.

The bulk carrier Philipp Oldendorff spotted a canoe-shaped boat adrift with people on board roughly 440 nautical miles, or about 815 km, south of Tenerife, and provided first aid to those affected while passenger ship Insignia was sent to the area, the Salvamento Maritimo statement said.

The Insignia, owned by Oceania Cruises, rescued a total of 68 people and recovered three bodies, the agency said, adding that it could not recover the remains of two people due to poor weather conditions.

On Thursday, Insignia’s crew reported that one of the rescued migrants was in critical condition and needed to be evacuated. He died before a search and rescue helicopter could reach him, the agency said.

The 62 men, three women and three minors rescued were from sub-Sahara Africa, according to the Insignia’s report to the agency.

“Safety of life at sea is of paramount importance for all seafarers,” an Oceania Cruises spokesperson told CNN via email.

“We can confirm that Insignia rescued 68 people from a vessel in distress between Cape Verde and Tenerife and bought them onboard for medical assistance and provided food, drinks, clothing and a safe place to rest. We have coordinated next steps with authorities in Tenerife, and they will be taking over the care of the rescued people,” the spokesperson added.

The 670-guest Insignia is currently sailing its 180-day Around-The-World cruise.

Data from Spain’s Interior ministry show a drastic increase of the number of migrants arriving by sea, especially to the Canary Islands.

According to Spain’s Interior ministry, between January 1 and June 15, 23,037 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea, a 122.6% increase compared to the same period last year. Of those, 18,977 have arrived to the Canary Islands by sea — an increase of 220.9% compared to the same period last year.

Earlier this month Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras said that at least 5,000 migrants have died trying to reach Spain this year between January and May, an average of 33 people per day.

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