Spain rescues 13 migrants off Gran Canaria, twice as many said missing

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MADRID (Reuters) - Two Spanish coast guard helicopters rescued 13 migrants in the Atlantic Ocean off the Canary Islands on Monday, authorities said, but those rescued told Red Cross workers that about twice as many were missing and probably drowned.

The helicopters, a rescue boat and two other ships headed 65 miles south of Gran Canaria after a rescue plane had spotted a dinghy barely afloat at sea, the Spanish Coast Guard said.

One of the helicopters rescued 11 people and took them to Gran Canaria, where two of them were being treated for hypothermia in health centres, while another two were taken to Tenerife.

The migrants told the Red Cross that around 40 people had been on board, a source at the international relief movement told Reuters.

Located around 60 miles off the coast of Morocco, Spain's Canary Islands have become a hot spot for migrants trying to reach Europe in recent years.

Last year some 4,400 people were lost at sea attempting to reach Spain, according to a monitoring group. A total of 22,316 migrants crossed by boat to the Canary Islands in 2021, after 23,271 made the crossing in 2020.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Hugh Lawson)