A wooden boat with over 356 Haitians ran aground Sunday off the Florida Keys, in what authorities believe might be one of the largest human smuggling attempts off U.S. shores in years.
A good Samaritan sent a message to the Coast Guard station in Key West shortly after 1:00 p.m. to report that an overcrowded small vessel had grounded. The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and local police and rescue services responded to the call.
158 of the passengers were rescued by the CBP from the water after they jumped off the boat and tried to swim to shore. The remaining 198 were taken into custody by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The migrants were given food, water, shelter, and basic medical attention. Three were taken to a local hospital for minor injuries. There were no fatalities from the incident.
The authorities said that none of the passengers were wearing life jackets. They also said that there were no illegal drugs or weapons found onboard.
Boat migrations from Haiti to the U.S. have become more frequent as the economic and political situations in the country worsens. The Coast Guard said it has rescued 1,152 Haitians since October.