MIAMI (Reuters) - Four people are dead after a small boat carrying suspected migrants was found capsized and adrift midday Thursday off the east coast of Florida, a U.S. Coast Guard official on Friday .
A Royal Netherlands Navy ship en route to Key West, Florida, on a counternarcotics mission came across the overturned vessel 75 miles northeast of West Palm Beach and alerted the Coast Guard.
Seven survivors, yet to be identified, were found and will be kept offshore on a Coast Guard ship for “up to a couple days” while they’re interviewed by border patrol agents, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Sabrina Laberdesque.
Another Coast Guard spokeswoman said the boat was carrying at least 12 people and that a Coast Guard cutter on Friday continued to search the surrounding waters.
Once the survivors are identified, border patrol agents will decide whether to return them to their home country, Laberdesque added.
Migrants from Haiti, Cuba and other Caribbean countries frequently sail through the Bahamas to reach the Florida coast, often in overloaded and unseaworthy vessels.
Miami is more than 600 miles from Haiti’s northern coast, where such voyages frequently begin.
Eighteen Haitians lost their lives this past Christmas Day near the Turks and Caicos when their boat capsized as officials towed it into port.
In November 2013, at least 30 Haitian migrants drowned when their overloaded boat capsized off the southern Bahamas.
Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Steve Orlofsky