U.S. Coast Guard calls off search for capsize survivors off Florida

by Reuters
Saturday, 8 February 2014 17:55 GMT

MIAMI, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard has called off the search for any more survivors from a motorboat carrying migrants that capsized two days ago off Florida's shore, with at least four confirmed dead, an official said on Saturday.

Seven people have been rescued since Thursday afternoon, and a Coast Guard spokeswoman said earlier this week that the boat was carrying at least 12.

The search was called off on Friday evening for one last person believed to have been on board, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Sabrina Laberdesque.

Still, the total number on board has not been determined.

"It's still not certain and it's under investigation," Laberdesque said.

Three bodies were recovered and a fourth person was confirmed dead, but rescuers were unable to recover the body, she said.

A Royal Netherlands Navy ship en route to Key West, Florida, on a counter-narcotics mission came across the overturned vessel 75 miles (121 km) northeast of West Palm Beach and alerted the Coast Guard.

Once the seven survivors are identified, border patrol agents will decide whether to return them to their home country, she added.

Migrants from Haiti, Cuba and other Caribbean countries - often in overloaded and unseaworthy vessels, frequently use a route via the Bahamas to reach the Florida coast.

Miami is more than 600 miles (966 km) from Haiti's northern coast, where such voyages often begin.

Eighteen Haitians lost their lives last Christmas Day near the Turks and Caicos Islands when their boat capsized as officials were towing it into port.

In November, at least 30 Haitian migrants drowned when their overloaded boat capsized off the southern Bahamas. (Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Gunna Dickson)

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