The Coast Guard Reports That One Corpse Has Been Recovered and 38 People Are Still Missing After a Capsized Boat Off the Coast of Florida
The US Coast Guard battled time and currents Wednesday as it searched for 38 people still missing in the Atlantic near Florida, four days after a suspected smuggling boat capsized, killing at least one passenger and leaving one confirmed survivor.
Capt. Jo-Ann F. Burdian stated during a news conference that the Coast Guard’s first objective is to locate the remaining migrants alive. She said the survivor informed rescuers that the boat capsized shortly after departing from the Bahamas on Saturday evening and sailing into a storm. The Coast Guard was notified Tuesday morning when the crew of a commercial vessel observed the guy sitting alone on the 25-foot-long vessel’s upturned hull.
“The situation is grave. The longer they linger in the sea… exposed to the marine environment… the more terrible and improbable it becomes” that survivors will be discovered, Burdian added.
Crews searched day and night, extrapolating from the location of the wreck, which was located about 40 miles off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida. By Wednesday morning, Burdian said, workers aboard at least four ships and five planes had searched an area about the size of New Jersey. They intended to continue looking throughout the day and then do a reassessment.
“We are utilising every piece of information available to us to ensure that our search efforts are exhaustive,” Burdian added. “However, we cannot search indefinitely.”
According to the survivor, he was part of a party of 40 individuals that departed the Bahamas’ island of Bimini on Saturday evening in what the Coast Guard says was a human smuggling operation. He stated that none of the boats were carrying life jackets when they capsized during inclement weather.
The Coast Guard issued a small boat alert Saturday and Sunday as a severe cold front passed through the treacherous passage, with winds gusting to 23 mph and seas reaching 9 feet high. Tommy Sewell, a local bonefishing guide, said Sunday and Monday saw strong gusts and violent squalls of rain.
After being discovered, the survivor was rushed to the hospital with indications of dehydration and sun exposure. Burdian would not disclose any information on him, just stating that he was now in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security.
Bimini is a tiny island located around 55 miles east of Miami and approximately 100 miles south of the location of the survivor. The capsized boat was likely driven north by the Gulf Stream, a warm and rapid stream that round the Florida peninsula and continues north along the Atlantic Coast.
Migrants have historically utilised the Bahamas as a gateway to Florida and the United States. They often attempt to make the journey during weather breaks, but the vessels are frequently dangerously laden and prone to capsize. Thousands of people have died throughout the years.
While the majority of these migrants are from Haiti and Cuba, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force reported apprehending migrants from other countries earlier this month, including Colombia and Ecuador.
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The Coast Guard monitors the waterways surrounding Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the Bahamas on a continuous basis. Its personnel rescued 88 Haitians from an overcrowded sail vessel off the coast of Great Inagua, Bahamas, on Friday.
“Navigating the Florida Straits, Windward and Mona Passages is highly dangerous and can result in death,” the Coast Guard warned last weekend.
In July, as Tropical Storm Elsa approached, the Coast Guard rescued 13 people when their boat sank off Key West.
According to the survivors, they departed Cuba with 22 people on board. Nine people have gone missing in the sea.