SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CMC) — The Commander of the Coast Guard Sector, San Juan, Captain Gregory Magee, has warned Haitians about making illegal voyages in “grossly overloaded makeshift boats” as the authorities Sunday night called off the search for survivors from last weeks’ boat disaster that left at least 11 Haitians dead.
“Our most heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of those who did not survive or remain missing, our prayers are with them,” said Magee, commending “all the partner agency crews who responded in this case”.
“Their bravery and actions helped save 38 lives from almost certain death, as well as the air, surface and land-based crews involved in the search. These crews have done their utmost to ensure that if there were any more survivors, they would have had the best chance to be rescued,” he said.
But Magee said that unfortunately, as the threat of illegal voyages continues, “we could be forced to respond to similar events in the future”.
“The dangers of these voyages are real, we see them every day, people aboard grossly overloaded makeshift boats taking on water in high seas with little or no lifesaving equipment.
“These people are at the mercy of ruthless smugglers who are not concerned with their lives or safety. To anyone thinking of taking part in an illegal voyage, don’t take to the sea! It could just save your life,” the Coast Guard commander said.
The Coast Guard Sunday night suspended the search for survivors which had been continuing for four days, following the sinking last Thursday of a boat overloaded with illegal Haitian migrants in the waters of the Mona maritime passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Haiti’s Prime Minister Dr Ariel Henry had, over the weekend, said he was “deeply upset” at the incident, extending condolences to the relatives of those killed.
“The news of the sinking of a boat off the coast of Puerto Rico which caused the death of 11 of our compatriots deeply upsets me.”
Last Thursday, the United States Coast Guard said it had repatriated 207 Haitian migrants to Cap-Haitien, Haiti after they were intercepted 20 miles south of the Turks and Caicos Islands during another exercise.