A boat off the coast of northern Cuba en route to the United States sank on Saturday after colliding with a Cuban coastguard vessel, killing at least five people, Cuban officials said Saturday.
The vessel reportedly overturned after the crash at Bahía Honda, about a two-hour drive from the capital Havana.
Among the five known deaths were a minor and three women, while about two dozen people were rescued, state media outlet Cubadebate said.
Further details were not released and Cuban officials told the state broadcaster that an investigation was underway.
The incident comes during the Caribbean island’s largest migration flight in four decades, spurred by a deeper economic, political and energy crisis.
Cuba’s interior ministry blamed the US, saying the deaths were “another consequence” of US policy toward Cuba, including the 60-year embargo.
Meanwhile, the US has sent condolences to the families of the deceased.
“As we expand safe and legal migration routes, we warn of attempts at dangerous and sometimes deadly irregular migration,” said a tweet from the US embassy in Havana, which has yet to resume full operations on the island.
The vast majority of Cubans who leave fly to Nicaragua and then travel overland to the US border, often in Texas and Arizona.
But a growing number have fled by boat on the perilous 90-mile journey to the south coast of the United States. Between October 2021 and August 2022, the US Coast Guard intercepted more than 4,600 Cubans traveling by boat, nearly six times more than in all of 2020.
It is the largest exodus since 1980, when about 125,000 Cubans traveled by sea to the US in six months, known as the Mariel crisis.