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At least 16 dead after migrant boat sinks near Dominican Republic

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:28 PM EST, Sun February 5, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The search for survivors has been called off, the U.S. Coast Guard says
  • NEW: At least 16 people were killed
  • The boat was headed toward Puerto Rico, officials say

(CNN) -- Authorities in the Dominican Republic called off their search for survivors Sunday after a small wooden boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized just off the coast, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which had been helping in the search.

At least 16 people died and more than 30 were missing from the Puerto Rico-bound boat, marina officials in the capital of Santo Domingo said.

The migrants were traveling in a yola, described by the U.S. Coast Guard as a small and "un-seaworthy" vessel frequently used by illegal migrants seeking to enter the United States.

The Coast Guard said it was notified about the incident on Saturday afternoon. It launched an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, used for recovery missions, and an ocean patrol aircraft, along with the Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo, often used to patrol for illegal migrants in the area.

The Dominican navy, air force, and national police were also involved in the search.

CNN's Esprit Smith and Melissa Gray contributed to this report.

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