April 25 (UPI) -- Search and rescue operations were launched Thursday in hopes of reaching 21 migrants reported missing after their boat sank Wednesday night in the Gulf of Paria, authorities said.
Twenty-five people including women and children were on board the pirogue boat named Jhonnaly Jose when it left Venezuela for Trinidad and Tobago Tuesday, Trinidad and Tobago's Ministry of National Security said in a press release.
The ministry said it had been informed that four passengers had been rescued.
The boat's last known position was east of Patos Island within the geographic responsibility of Venezuela's Maritime Rescue Coordination Center.
"Minister [Edmund] Dillon has given the assurance that the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard will work closely with its Venezuelan counterpart to assist with the search and rescue operation," the ministry said in its own release.
Ander Charles, mayor of the Venezuelan port city of Guiria where the ill-fated vessel departed from, said via Twitter that a rescue operation was underway.
The boat was reportedly overloaded and began experiencing technical problems in choppy waters east of the uninhabited Patos Island, which is some 3 miles off of the South America mainland, Trinidad and Tobago's the Guardian reported.
An estimated 3.7 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015 due to economic hardships, the Washington Post reported.
Since February when President Nicolas Maduro closed border crossings with Colombia and Brazil, Venezuelans have sought refuge from the worsening situation in their country by attempting dangerous routes to reach nearby countries.