MIAMI, United States (CMC) — The United States Coast Guard said on Wednesday that it intercepted 191 Haitians aboard an overloaded sail freighter about 40 miles south-west of Great Inagua, The Bahamas.
The US Coast Guard said that the crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Kathleen Moore located the boat with 191 people aboard during a routine patrol Tuesday at about 1 am.
“The crew provided life jackets and brought the people aboard coast guard cutters 'Reliance' and 'Kathleen Moore' due to safety of life at sea concerns,” the coast guard said..
Lieutenant David Steele, coast guard liaison officer, US Embassy Haiti, said the coast guard maintains a persistent presence patrolling the waters around Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico and The Bahamas to help prevent loss of life on the high seas.
“These grossly overloaded vessels operate without proper safety equipment and are not built for these hazardous voyages,” he said.
Since October 1, 2021, coast guard crews have rescued 802 Haitians in their attempt to reach the shores of the United States.
Meantime, the US Coast Guard also said on Thursday that it had found four additional bodies in its search for dozens of migrants lost at sea off Florida, but that it would call off its active search for survivors at sunset if it doesn't receive any new information.
Homeland Security Investigations officials said they were actively investigating the case as a human smuggling operation.
Authorities have now found a total of five bodies, leaving 34 missing.
US Coast Guard Captain Jo-Ann F Burdian said the decision to suspend the search at sunset Thursday, pending any new discoveries, was not an easy one.
“We have saturated the area over and over, over again,” she said. “We've had good visibility. We know we're searching in the right area. We've overflown the vessel a number of times and have found additional deceased persons. It does mean we don't think it's likely that anyone else has survived.”
Initially, the crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Ibis was searching for 38 people off Fort Pierce Inlet, Florida, who had let from the Bahamian island of Bimini.
“A good Samaritan rescued one person, Tuesday, from a capsized 25-foot vessel off Fort Pierce Inlet,” it said.
“Coast guard air and surface crews are searching for people between Bimini, Bahamas, and Fort Pierce Inlet where the survivor was rescued. The survivor was brought to a local hospital for symptoms of dehydration and sun exposure,” it added.
“The good Samaritan reported to Sector Miami watchstanders at 8 am that he had rescued a man clinging to a capsized vessel approximately 45 miles east of Fort Pierce Inlet.”
The US Coast Guard said the survivor reported that he left Bimini with 39 other people last Saturday night. He said they encountered severe weather which caused the vessel to capsize Sunday morning.
“The survivor also reported no one was wearing life jackets,” the US Coast Guard said. “Coast guard cutter crews began searching at approximately 8:20 am and searched more than 1,300 square miles, about the size of Rhode Island.”
The US Coast Guard did not state the nationalities of those who might have perished.