The US Coast Guard on Tuesday searched 39 people missing for days after a boat believed to be used for human trafficking capsized off the coast of Florida off the Bahamas.
A Good Samaritan called the Coast Guard early Tuesday after rescuing a man stuck in a boat 72 kilometers east of Fort Pierce, the Maritime Security Agency said on Twitter.
The man said he was with a group of 39 others who had left Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday night. He said the boat capsized in bad weather and none of the occupants were wearing life-jackets.
The survivor was brought to the hospital for symptoms of dehydration and sun exposure.
The Coast Guard is calling it a case of suspected human trafficking. Officials said on Twitter that they were conducting both air and sea searches in an area of about 220 km stretching from Bimini to Fort Pierce Inlet.
The cold late Saturday night spoiled the weather in Bimini area. Local bonefishing guide, Tommy Sewell, said there were winds of about 30 km/h and heavy rain from Sunday to Monday.
Migrants have long used the islands of the Bahamas as a ladder to reach Florida and the United States.
They usually try to take advantage of the brakes in the weather to make the crossing, but the ships are often dangerously overloaded and in danger of capsizing. There have been thousands of deaths over the years.
‘Very dangerous’ route
The Coast Guard patrols the waters around Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas.
For the most part, migrants are from Haiti and Cuba, but the Royal Bahamas Defense Force reported earlier this month capturing migrants from other parts of the world, including Colombia and Ecuador.
On Friday, the Coast Guard found 88 Haitians in an overloaded sail cargo ship west of Great Inagua, Bahamas.
“Navigating the Florida Straits, Windward and Mona Passage is extremely dangerous and can result in fatalities,” the Coast Guard said in a statement last weekend.
Last July, the Coast Guard rescued 13 people after their boat came close to Tropical Storm Elsa off Key West.
The survivors said they had left Cuba with 22 people. Nine went missing in the water.