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Search Called Off for 34 Missing People Off Coast of Florida

By: Hannah Stoughton

Jan. 27th, 2020: The U.S. coastguard continues its search for the 34-missing people off the coast of Florida after a boat was capsized in a storm.

On January 22nd, a boat that was suspected to have been part of a human smuggling mission was overtaken by a storm on its way to a Florida coast. The boat was transporting migrants from the Bahamas when it was hit by the storm and ultimately overtaken by waves and rain. There is only one known survivor currently.

The coastguard became aware of the overturned boat when a call came in from the crew of a merchant vessel on Tuesday morning about a man sitting on the hull of the boat by himself. The vessel rescued the man and took him back to land. Upon arrival, the man was taken in for dehydration and sun exposure and is now lucid and conscious, as stated by Homeland Security Officials.

After regaining consciousness, the survivor offered details on the boat’s contents and mission. He said that he was with a group of 40 people on the boat with the intent of making it to America. They left from Bimini in the Bahamas, and the trip had only been underway for a short time before the boat was capsized. He also stated that there were no lifeboats provided.

The man’s name and ethnicity have been withheld for his protection.

The search began on Tuesday for the remaining 39 people, with the coastguard pressing for urgency in the matter. Capt. Jo-Ann F. Burdian offered “With every moment that passes, it becomes much more dire and more unlikely” that the remaining survivors will be found. “We are using every piece of information we can to make sure we are exhausting our search efforts, but we can’t search forever.”

Since learning of the incident, the rescue crews have been restless in their efforts to find the missing people. They have been searching since Tuesday morning, finding pieces of wreckage approximately 40 miles off the coast of Fort Pierce. As of Thursday morning, an area about the size of New Jersey had been searched and monitored for any signs of the survivors.

5 bodies have been recovered by the coast guard since the search has begun.

The conditions are expected to worsen on Friday when a strong cold front is going to move into the area. The coast guard announced plans on Thursday morning of not continuing the search for the remaining 34 missing people off the boat.

This incident comes after a recent interception of an overloaded freighter near Great Inagua in the Bahamas, where 88 Haitians were taken off the boat on Friday, January 21st. Also on Friday, 32 people had been rescued off a capsized boat near Bimini.

Homeland security has since opened a criminal investigation into the human smuggling, including U.S. agents that are stationed in the Bahamas. Special agent Anthony Salisbury, head of Miami’s office, stated that they are “dealing with criminal organizations that have no value for human life or safety” and that “it’s just about the money.”

Image Credit: NY Post

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