Emergency services say two fishing boats capsized off the coast of San Diego, California in the US.
At least eight people have died after two fishing boats capsized off the coast of San Diego, California in the US, auxiliaries have said.
Crews were looking for an estimated seven additional people on Sunday, authorities said.
A woman on one of the panga-style boats called 911 late Saturday to report that the other ship had overturned in the waves off Black’s Beach, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm.
“The woman who called said there were 15 people on the boat, but that was just an estimate,” Brahm said.
Coast Guard and San Diego Fire-Rescue crews pulled eight bodies from the water, but thick fog hampered searches for additional victims. A Coast Guard cutter was combing the area early Sunday, and officials hoped to get helicopters airborne if the weather improves, Brahm said.
Authorities said the boats appeared to be part of a people-smuggling operation.
“We lost eight souls,” James Gartland, chief of the city of San Diego lifeguard, told a press conference, adding that it was “one of the worst maritime smuggling tragedies I can think of in California, especially here in town.” of San Diego”.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Eddie Berrios confirmed eight people were killed and teams are searching for at least seven more. He didn’t know what kind of boats they were, but said pangas – small open boats with outboard motors used in smuggling operations – often come ashore there.
It was unclear whether any arrests were made and the nationality of the passengers is unknown.
Eric Lavergne, special operations supervisor with the US Border Patrol in San Diego, said this was one of several hundred migrant smuggling events recorded in his jurisdiction this fiscal year, which is on track with comparative numbers in recent years.
These events include incidents of people swimming, traveling on a surfboard or taking panga fishing boats to enter the US, he said.
Under President Joe Biden, the number of illegal border crossings has skyrocketed, with many asylum seekers turning themselves in to border patrol officers and being released into the US to take their cases to immigration court.
A coronavirus pandemic rule that expires on May 11 denies migrants the chance to seek asylum to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — but its enforcement has fallen disproportionately on Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans and El Salvadorans, as this are the only nationalities that Mexico has agreed to take back.
As a result, people from those four countries are more likely to try to escape capture, knowing that they will likely be deported under the public health rule, known as Title 42. Mexico has recently begun taking back Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans under Title 42.