US coast guard searching for 39 people after boat capsizes off Florida coast

Officials say they are dealing with ‘suspected human smuggling venture’

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Wednesday 26 January 2022 03:56
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US coast guard searching for 39 people after boat capsizes off Florida coast

The US coast guard is searching for 39 people who were on board a boat that capsized 45 miles off the Florida coast.

Officials say that the alarm was raised when a survivor clinging to the overturned vessel was rescued by a passing craft east of the state’s Fort Pierce Inlet.

The survivor says that the group, none of whom had life jackets, left Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday night when they encountered bad weather.

The coast guard says that they are dealing with a “suspected human smuggling venture”.

“Coast guard air and surface asset crews are actively searching for people in the water,” they said in a tweet.

The incident comes just weeks after the coast guard rescued 176 Haitians from an overloaded, unseaworthy boat as it approached the Florida coast.

The rescue took place after US border and marine officials spotted the 60ft vessel 25 miles northeast of the Bahamas.

“It is extremely dangerous to navigate the Florida Straits in an unseaworthy vessel, especially off the Florida Keys where the water is extra treacherous with shoals and reefs,” said Chief Warrant Officer James Kinney.

“Thanks to the quick coordination among so many different agencies, no lives were lost during this interdiction.”

There has been a sharp rise in the number of Haitians fleeing the Caribbean nation ,which has undergone a string of crises, including the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and a devastating earthquake last August that killed more than 2,000 people.

The country has also suffered from fuel shortages since October when gangs blocked access to Haiti’s fuel terminals, causing businesses and hospitals to partially or completely close down.

Just two days ago the coastguard took to Twitter to warn people against making dangerous sea journeys to reach the US.

“Navigating the seas in overloaded & less than seaworthy vessels is extremely dangerous and can result in loss of life,” the service tweeted.

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