The castaway was perched on the remains of the barge when he was rescued. He told the authorities that the boat capsized on Saturday night and that 40 people were on it. He also said there were no lifeguards on board. The United States Coast Guard was searching with little hope on Tuesday for the 39 missing passengers who were traveling with him. The authorities suspect that they were irregular migrants and that the purpose of the crossing was human trafficking.
They had left Bimini, in the Bahamas, and the boat capsized during a storm, according to the account of the castaway, who was located 70 kilometers from the port of Fort Pierce, Florida. The Weather Service recorded waves of between three and four meters and winds of between 10 and 20 knots on Saturday night in the area where the ship is believed to have disappeared.
A statement from the Coast Guard, issued on Tuesday, suggests that it is a case of human smuggling. Authorities tweeted that they are searching the roughly 135-mile (218-kilometer) area between Bimini and Fort Pierce by sea and air.
The Coast Guard routinely patrols the waters around Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas to intercept routes commonly used by migrants trying to reach US shores. Last Friday, 88 Haitians were located on an overloaded cargo ship west of Great Inagua, in the Bahamas. And in July, nine people lost their lives when their boat capsized off Key West in the middle of Tropical Storm Elsa. 13 fellow travelers survived. When something like this happens, they return the migrants to their countries of origin.
“Navigation through the Straits of Florida, the Windward Passage and the Mona Passage is extremely dangerous and can lead to the death of those who attempt it,” the Coast Guard warned in a statement last weekend. Despite this certainty, desperation pushes many to keep trying.
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