MIAMI (Reuters) - A boat smuggling suspected migrants to the United States capsized off Florida’s southeast coast on Thursday, killing at least three people on board, authorities said.
A Royal Netherlands Navy ship en route to the Caribbean on a counternarcotics mission, encountered the overturned vessel about 75 miles northeast of West Palm Beach and alerted the U.S. Coast Guard.
Coast Guard spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo said there were at least 12 people aboard the 25-foot (7.5 meter) boat and seven were plucked to safety. A search was underway for those still unaccounted for.
“Whether they’re repatriated will all depend on their nationality which we don’t have yet,” Fajardo said, referring to the seven people rescued.
Migrants from Haiti, Cuba and other Caribbean countries frequently sail through the Bahamas in an attempt 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.
Editing by David Adams and Tom Brown