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U.S. Coast Guard intercepts sail freighter it says was overloaded with 191 Haitians

39 missing after boat capsizes off Florida coast
39 missing after boat capsizes off Florida coast 00:22

The U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted what it says was a sail freighter overloaded with 191 Haitians off the Bahamas, CBS Miami reports. They were believed to be trying to get to Florida, according to the Reuters news agency.

It happened in waters Reuters called the "hub of human smuggling operations between the Caribbean and Florida" and came as the search continued for 38 people missing off Florida, days after what U.S. authorities think was a human smuggling boat capsized in a storm.

The green and blue sail freighter was detected during a routine patrol about 40 miles southwest of Great Inagua, Bahama, some 540 miles southeast of Florida at approximately 1 a.m. Tuesday, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

The Coast Guard crew provided life jackets and brought the Haitians aboard their cutters, CBS Miami says.

"The Coast Guard maintains a persistent presence patrolling the waters around Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, to help prevent loss of life on the high seas," Lt. David Steele, Coast Guard liaison officer at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti said in a statement. "These grossly overloaded vessels operate without proper safety equipment and are not built for these hazardous voyages."

Those interdicted at sea can expect to be brought back to Haiti, officials said.

Coast Guard crews have intercepted more than 800 Haitians since October, CBS Miami notes.

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