A woman found clinging to an upturned dinghy more than 100 miles off the Canary Islands is believed to be the sole survivor of a migrant disaster that killed as many as 52. The 30-year-old, spotted by a passing ship some 135 miles from the Spanish archipelago off the coast of northwestern Africa, was flown by helicopter Thursday to the Canarian capital of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where she was hospitalized with severe dehydration, per Reuters. She told officials she'd been on the inflatable dinghy with dozens of others. Spain's Maritime Rescue Service said the boat had departed from Africa a week earlier carrying 53 migrants and refugees, per Al Jazeera. It may have encountered poor weather conditions, per the Guardian. The Coast Guard said the bodies of a man and woman were the only ones in the vicinity.
Many migrants seeking passage to Europe depart for the Canary Islands from a disputed area between Morocco's Tarfaya and Western Sahara's Laayoune, as passages through the Mediterranean have become increasingly difficult with tighter controls. More than 7,500 migrants have already reached the islands this year, or more than twice as many as this time last year, per Reuters. More than 23,000 migrants arrived in the islands in 2020, for an eightfold increase over 2019, per the Guardian. But many never arrive. Human rights group Walking Borders suggests more than 2,000 have died while traveling the route this year, per the BBC. The outlet notes another 47 people were feared dead this week after seven survivors were found on a boat that had lost power and drifted for almost two weeks. It's believed to have left Laayoune on Aug. 3. (Read more Canary Islands stories.)