Search and rescue efforts are underway for 39 people who went missing after a vessel capsized off the coast of Florida, with none believed to be wearing a life jacket in what is a suspected case of human smuggling, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The vessel is believed to have capsized during severe weather Saturday night while traveling between Bimini in the Bahamas and Fort Pierce Inlet, Florida, according to the Coast Guard, citing a lone survivor that’s been rescued so far.
The survivor was picked up by a good samaritan who notified the Coast Guard of the incident at around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The Coast Guard said crews are searching the entire area between Bimini and Fort Pierce Inlet—a distance of about 135 miles.
“This is a suspected human smuggling venture,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
The search and rescue venture will be made more difficult by unsettled weather in the area. Overcast skies and rain are expected to be in place for much of the rest of the week, with choppy seas leading to a high rip current risk along the Florida coast. The past few days have also been colder than usual across the region, with temperatures dipping into the mid-40s over the weekend in Miami. The passage between the Bahamas and Florida is also known for transit involving human trafficking and illegal migrant operations, which often involve dangerous means. On Friday, for example, the Coast Guard and Bahamian authorities intercepted an overloaded boat carrying 88 Haitian migrants.