Two women and a man died onboard an overloaded migrant boat found off the Canary Islands early Friday while Spanish rescuers managed to save 41 people, the coastguard said.
A local fishing boat spotted the heavily-laden vessel struggling in rough seas just off Poris de Abona on the southeastern shores of Tenerife and raised the alarm.
“Some in the boat began to fall into the water but the Salvamento Alpheratz managed to right the boat,” a coastguard spokesman said, indicating there were 37 people on board, one of whom was dead.
Among the survivors was a woman, a baby and four children, he said.
Separately, the fishing boat managed to rescue another five people, and also recovered the bodies of two women, he added.
Another boat and three helicopters were involved in the search to see if there were any more survivors stranded in the water, he said.
The rescue came just days after a two-year-old girl from Mali died after barely surviving a days-long journey from the shores of Western Sahara on a boat packed with 52 people.
She was the 19th person to die as a result of the treacherous sea voyage from the African coast, putting a harrowingly human face on the migrant crisis in the Canary Islands.
The Atlantic route is notoriously dangerous due to extremely strong currents, with vessels typically overcrowded and in very poor condition. At least 1,851 people died on the route last year, according to Caminando Fronteras that monitors migrant flows.
In 2020, 23,023 migrants reached the Canaries, a figure eight times higher than in 2019, but this year the numbers are twice as high, with 2,580 migrant arrivals between January 1 and March 15, official figures show.
Rights groups have warned that the Covid-19 crisis has spurred the flight effect, with those working in tourism, fishing or other casual jobs choosing to cross the Atlantic or helping others do so with their boats after being left penniless by the economic meltdown triggered by the pandemic.