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Migrants sit after being rescued at the island of Lanzarote in the Spain's Canary Islands on June 18, 2021.The Associated Press

A young girl died during a rescue operation to save a boatload of migrants trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands, Spanish authorities said Wednesday.

Emergency services for the Canary Islands said that the girl suffered respiratory failure before the rescue helicopter carrying her and two adults could reach a hospital. Rescuers believed that she was around five years old.

The girl was one of 35 migrants on a small craft located by a merchant ship on Tuesday while adrift in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

The perilous sea route from western Africa to the Canary Islands has become an important entrance point for migrants fleeing poverty and violence in hopes of reaching Europe. Over 5,700 migrants have arrived in the archipelago so far this year, compared with 2,600 in the same period in 2020.

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