A boat carrying Haitian migrants caught fire off the coast of the Dominican Republic, leaving at least eight passengers dead and 44 missing, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said Thursday.

The victims were traveling from the northern Haitian town of Cap-Haitien to the Turks and Caicos when their boat caught fire 23 miles north of the Dominican Republic, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Barry Bena said.

Authorities did not know when the blaze occurred, when the migrants set sail or what caused the fire.

Two migrants were pulled from the water Wednesday and brought to a hospital in Montecristi on the Dominican Republic's north coast. They were being treated Thursday for first-degree burns, Dr. Maria Belliard said.

Eight of the passengers were found dead Thursday in the Atlantic Ocean.

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter, two airplanes and a helicopter were searching for other survivors, Bena said.