MADRID — A cruise ship rescued 68 migrants and found five bodies in a wooden dinghy that was drifting off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, Spain’s maritime rescue agency said Thursday.

It said an oil tanker traveling from northwestern Spain to Brazil spotted the drifting boat on Wednesday afternoon at about 440 nautical miles (815 kilometers or 506 miles) south of Tenerife, one of the seven islands in the Canaries archipelago.

Spanish authorities diverted the Insignia, a cruise ship, to rescue the migrants. The Insignia crew also recovered three of the five bodies on the dinghy. The remains of two people were left at sea because of bad weather hampering their recovery.

The Spanish rescue agency emailed a statement saying the Insignia is expected to arrive on Friday at the port of Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

The Canary Islands is a destination for boats packed with migrants departing from northwestern Africa on a perilous Atlantic route in search of a better life in Europe.

Spain’s Interior Ministry says a record 55,618 migrants arrived by boat — most of them in the Canary Islands — last year, almost double the number of the previous year. More than 23,000 have landed so far this year, the ministry said.

The Spanish nonprofit organization Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) says more than 5,000 migrants have died so far this year, through May, while trying to reach Spanish coasts, most of them on the Atlantic route. The figure for all 2023 was 6,600, more than double the number for 2022.


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