Coast Guard searches for 38 missing from Florida in a situation called "dire"

MIAMI BEACH (AP) -- Wednesday was a difficult day for the Coast Guard as it searched for 38 people off Florida's coast. This search came four days after a boat carrying suspected human smuggling suspects was swept away by a storm.

Coast Guard searches for 38 missing from Florida in a situation called "dire"

One person was killed in the accident and one survivor is known.

Capt. Jo-Ann F. Burdian stated that the survivor informed rescuers that his boat capsized on Saturday night after it was hit by a storm in the Bahamas. After a crew member of a merchant ship spotted the man alone on the boat's hull, the Coast Guard was alerted.

She stated that it was urgent to find other migrants.

She said that every second that passes it becomes more difficult and less likely that survivors will be found.

Crews searched the area continuously and extrapolated from Fort Pierce, where the wreck was found about 40 miles (64 km) away. Burdian stated that crews had scanned an area the size of New Jersey with at least four ships and five planes by Wednesday morning. They were planning to continue searching throughout the day, and then reevaluate.

Burdian stated that "We are using all information we have to ensure we exhaust our search efforts." "But we cannot search forever."

Wednesday's forecast predicts rain and thunderstorms in the search zone, with waves cresting at 2-3 feet (1 meter), and winds blowing at 12-15 mph (19-24 kph).

Burdain stated that the man rescued said he was one of 40 people who had left Bimini, Bahamas in what the Coast Guard believes was a human-smuggling operation. She added that the man claimed that the boat capsized soon afterward and that no one was wearing a life jacket.

A small craft advisory was issued because a strong cold front passed through the dangerous passage Saturday and Sunday. Winds up to 23 mph (37.5 kph) and seas up to 9 feet (3 m) were some of the effects. Tommy Sewell, a local guide for fishing, stated that there was strong wind and intense rain squalls on Sunday and Monday.

The survivor was taken to hospital with signs of sun exposure and dehydration. Burdian refused to provide further details and said that he was now being held in custody by the Department of Homeland Security.

Bimini, a small island located about 55 miles (90 km) east of Miami and 100 miles (160 km) south of the spot where the survivor was discovered, is about 100 miles (160 km) away. According to reports, the Gulf Stream, a warm and swift current that flows north along America's Atlantic Coast, pushed the boat northward.

The Bahamas has been a popular destination for migrants who want to travel to Florida and the United States. Although they try to use weather breaks to cross, the vessels are dangerously overloaded and susceptible to capsize. Over the years, there have been many deaths.

These migrants mostly come from Haiti and Cuba. However, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force reported earlier this month that it had apprehended migrants from Colombia and Ecuador.

The Coast Guard patrols all waters in the vicinity of Haiti, Cuba, Cuba, and the Bahamas. Its crews pulled 88 Haitians out of a overloaded sailing freighter west from Great Inagua (Bahamas) on Friday.

The Coast Guard saved 13 people last July when their boat was swept off the coast of Key West by Tropical Storm Elsa. According to survivors, 22 people were aboard the boat when they left Cuba. Nine people were lost in the water.

The Coast Guard reported that it had apprehended 838 Cubans and 1,527 Haitians in its fiscal year ending Sept. 30. 742 Dominican Republic residents were also arrested. This region includes Florida and the Caribbean. It also arrested migrants from other countries, but did not give a breakdown.

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