Crammed wooden boat with 271 migrants reaches Spain's Canary Islands

MADRID (Reuters) - A wooden boat carrying 271 migrants arrived on Tuesday in El Hierro, the westernmost of the Spanish Canary Islands, after making a perilous journey from Africa in what rescuers said was the most crammed vessel they have seen.

In the last 24 hours, a total of 726 migrants, including women and children, arrived in the Canary Islands, off West Africa's coast in at least six different precarious boats, including three in El Hierro alone, authorities said.

The Red Cross group that attended the migrants in El Hierro said this was a record number of arrivals in a single boat at the archipelago. In 2008 they received 234 people in one boat.

Journalist and former migration adviser in the regional government, Txema Santana, posted on X that the boat arrived from Senegal. "I've never seen a boat with so many people on board," he wrote.

The seven islands of the archipelago have become the main destination for migrants trying to reach Spain, while others seek to cross the Mediterranean to the Spanish mainland.

This year Spain has seen an increase in the number of migrants attempting to cross from Senegal and other African countries to the Canaries.

In January-August, 21,780 migrants reached Spain, nearly 15% more than in the same period of 2022, according to official data. September is one of the busiest periods for all attempted crossings because waters are calmer.

(Reporting by Borja Suarez and Elena Rodriguez, writing by Corina Pons; editing by Grant McCool)