BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spanish maritime rescuers said they pulled 38 people alive and recovered the remains of two others from a migrant boat that had set off from West Africa and was trying to reach the Canary Islands.

The boat was spotted by a merchant vessel 76 nautical miles (140 kilometers or 87 miles) south of Gran Canaria Monday evening.

Four people in critical condition were evacuated to a hospital in two helicopters while 34 others were taken to the port of Arguineguín by boat, Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service said. Among the survivors were seven women.

Spanish authorities have been grappling with a surge in migrants and refugees from West Africa reaching the archipelago, a stepping stone to continental Europe.

Nearly 12,000 people fleeing poverty, conflict and instability in West Africa arrived in the Canaries in the first two months of the year, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry, more than six times the number for the same period last year.

Most migrants have been departing from the coast of Mauritania on artisanal fishing boats known as pirogues and navigating for several days against strong winds and Atlantic currents. While thousands have survived the risky journey, many die or disappear along the way with remains sometimes washing up on the other side of the Atlantic.

Last week, two pirogues that had left Mauritania to Spain were found drifting hundreds of miles (kilometers) away near the archipelago nation of Cape Verde, after failing to reach their destination, police said. Eleven survivors were rescued from one boat and five others from the second boat though one person died later. Five bodies were also recovered and dozens more were believed to have been lost at sea.


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