Migrants die as boat sinks off Florida

A boat overloaded with around 30 people, possibly Haitians being smuggled to the US from their desperately poor country, sank off the Florida coast. At least nine people died.



The Coast Guard rescued 16 and was searching for others, but at least nine died, including one infant, said Petty Officer Nick Ameen.

The search was expected to last overnight, officials said late Wednesday. Although the Coast Guard hadn't figured out exactly how many people were aboard when it sank early Wednesday or how many might still be lost at sea, it appeared certain that it fit the profile of migrant smuggling.

"The boat was obviously overloaded," Coast Guard Capt. James Fitton said. "It's a tragedy that someone would be so callous with human life."

For those familiar with the plight of Haitians, the escape attempt was no surprise.

"The economic conditions in Haiti are deplorable, and I don't see them getting any better any time soon," said Andy Gomez, a University of Miami expert on Caribbean migration. "And the Haitian-American community has developed a pretty good network here in the last five or 10 years, just as the Cuban-Americans have done, so there's more of a reason to come."

Four tropical storms and hurricanes battered the Western Hemisphere's poorest country during last year's harvest season, killing 793 people, crippling agriculture and causing $1 billion in damage to irrigation, bridges and roads.

In January, United Nations-sponsored groups said more aid was urgently needed to stave off famine in several areas of the country.

Fitton said the boat apparently left Bimini in the Bahamas on Tuesday night and was believed to have capsized or collided with something at about 2 a.m. (0600 GMT) Wednesday. Officials didn't learn about it until another boater called more than 10 hours later.

The boat has not been found, and is thought to have sunk because it hasn't been spotted from the air. Fitton said all those rescued were expected to recover. Besides children, women also were aboard, including a pregnant woman.

Six women, two men and the infant died, Ameen said. He said there was some confusion in the numbers because of the crossover of agencies working on the recovery.

Two Coast Guard cutters, one helicopter and one jet were still searching late Wednesday about 15 miles (25 kilometers) off the shore of Boynton Beach where water temperatures by the afternoon were in the high 70s Fahrenheit (mid 20s Celsius).

Since October, the Coast Guard had stopped 1,377 Haitians, up from 972 during the same seven-month period last year.

The ship's sinking came as Haitian-American leaders met in Washington on Wednesday to lobby for temporary protective status, or TPS, for those from the country who make it to the US

It would be an emergency measure to keep people from being deported to their homeland so they can help their country recover following a natural disaster or major political upheaval. It has been granted to countries including El Salvador and Nicaragua but never to Haiti.

"If not now, when?" Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, asked of potentially granting Haitians protective status. "The longer it takes the administration to decide whether to grant TPS, the more people may decide to attempt to make it to our shores."

Night fell on Riviera Beach, where numerous bodies were zipped into silver bags and wheeled off on gurneys after being unloaded from a Coast Guard boat.

The Coast Guard said it was not known whether the boat's captain and any crew members were among those found and survivors haven't indicated who may have organized the trip.

"We haven't even asked those questions yet," Fitton said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road