US Coast Guard teams searching for 39 people missing off the coast of Florida after their boat capsized have found a body.
The unnamed person was discovered by the crew of a cutter, as officials say they hope to find the other 38 alive, but admit the situation is getting “more serious” the longer they remain in the water.
At least one person survived the capsizing in the Atlantic Ocean between Bahamian and Florida after the alleged human smuggling operation went awry during a storm several days ago.
He was taken to hospital suffering from dehydration and sun exposure after he was found sitting on the hull, 45 miles east of Fort Pierce Inlet, by the crew of a merchant vessel early Tuesday.
The man told his rescuers he was part of a group of 40 people who left Bimini Island in the Bahamas on Saturday evening.
He said the boat capsized in bad weather on Sunday morning and no one was wearing life jackets.
Last weekend a small craft advisory was issued for a severe cold front blowing through the dangerous passage with winds of up to 23mph and swells of up to three metres, according to the Coastguard.
Crews from at least four ships and five planes have already scanned an area the size of New Jersey, according to Captain Jo-Ann F Burdian.
They plan to continue the search throughout Wednesday before reassessing the operation.
“We use every bit of information we can to make sure we’re exhausting our search efforts,” Capt Burdian said.
“But we can’t search forever.”
She also admitted that “the longer they stay in the water…exposed to the marine environment…with each passing moment, it becomes much more serious and more unlikely” that survivors will be found.
The Bahamas are a springboard to reach the United States
Migrants have long used the Bahamas as a springboard to reach Florida and the United States.
They usually try to take advantage of breaks in the weather to make the crossing, but the ships are often dangerously overcrowded and at risk of capsizing.
Thousands of people have died over the years.
The migrants making the journey are mostly from Haiti and Cuba, but authorities in the Bahamas reported finding them in other parts of the world, including Colombia and Ecuador, earlier this month.