Coast Guard ending search for bodies from capsize off Florida

US Coast Guard personnel patrol near the US Coast Guard Sector Miami in Miami, Florida, on January 26, 2022. – US authorities found the body of one of the 39 people who have been missing since January 23, when the boat they were traveling on capsized off the coast of Florida, and continue to search for possible survivors. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

MIAMI, United States (AFP) — The US Coast Guard said Thursday it will soon call off the search for dozens of people missing from a boat that capsized off Florida last weekend in a suspected human smuggling tragedy.

Search teams have recovered five bodies, from around 40 people who were on the boat, according to the military branch.

“If we don’t receive any additional information today that can refine our search or direct us towards additional survivors, at sunset this evening we will suspend actively searching,” said Coast Guard captain Jo-Ann Burdian.

Four of the bodies were recovered in the past 24 hours. One person is known to have survived.

The boat left Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday and capsized the next morning after hitting rough seas 45 miles (65 kilometers) east of the city of Fort Pierce, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

Burdian has said the failed journey was considered a suspected human smuggling venture, as it took place along a route commonly used for such clandestine trips from the Bahamas to the United States.

The one man who survived said there were 39 other people on the boat and no one was wearing a life jacket.

Human smugglers are known to use the Bahamas — a group of islands near the Florida coast — as a jumping off point for getting people, many from other Caribbean countries such as Haiti, into the United States.

Bimini, the westernmost district of the Bahamas and its closest point to the US mainland, is approximately 130 miles from Fort Pierce Inlet.

© Agence France-Presse