May 03, 2021 14:16 UTC
  • Four dead, dozens injured after migrant boat capsizes off San Diego coast in US

At least four people have died and over two dozen injured after a suspected smuggling vessel capsized off the coast of San Diego in the US State of California.

US media, quoting local officials, said the vessel carrying 30 people overturned near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma on Sunday.

Initially, reports put the death toll at two, which has now mounted to four, with dozens of others hospitalized. 

James Gartland, a lifeguard chief for San Diego, a city on the Pacific coast of California known for its beaches, was quoted saying that the boat hit the reef and broke up.

“This was a mass rescue operation that turned into a mass casualty incident,” he said.

There were 30 people on the boat, according to reports, and most of them made it to shore on their own.

“Our goal was just to rescue everyone we could,” a lifeguard was quoted saying by CNN. “Conditions were pretty rough -- 5-6 feet of surf, windy, cold, the water's around 60 degrees so you get hypothermic pretty quickly.”

According to Jeff Stephenson, supervisor and border patrol agent in the San Diego sector of US Customs and Border Patrol, it was a “smuggling vessel used to smuggle migrants into the US illegally.”

The person believed to be operating the boat is in custody, officials told reporters.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria tweeted for "San Diegans to keep the boat's passengers in your prayers."

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in a news release Friday that it was beefing up patrol operations this weekend to deter smugglers.

Sunday's incident follows the arrest of 21 people off the coast of San Diego early Thursday, according to CBP statement.