(NewsNation) — Nearly 200 Haitian migrants were rescued Monday from a sail freighter that was stuck on a sandbar off the Florida Keys.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel said that the U.S. Coast Guard fought against 6- to 10-feet tall waves and 25 mph winds to get people off the boat.
A “Good Samaritan” reported the vessel to Sector Key West watchstanders at 5 a.m. the Coast Guard said in a tweet. Crews continued rescue efforts more than 14 hours after the boat was reported to officials, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Officials pulled about 18 migrants who had fallen into the ocean, attempting to swim ashore, Miami Sector Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar wrote on Twitter. The Sun Sentinel says the Coast Guard rescued over 180 people, and there were at least 198 people on board the boat.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Nicole Groll told NewsNation that boats like this tend to be very packed, and people usually don’t wear life jackets.
“There’s no safety equipment onboard, and they are packed in and it weighs down heavy in the water,” she said on “Morning in America.” “And earlier this week, and over the weekend, the seas were very, extremely bad.”
Dozens have died en route to the U.S. territory this year as the rickety boats they’re crammed into capsize in treacherous waters, the Associated Press reported.
Earlier this week, according to the Miami Herald, a search for people from Cuba migrating to the U.S. in a boat that capsized in Florida was suspended.
The Miami Herald said the death toll is now 10. On Saturday, Coast Guard crews rescued nine people and found one body. Five more bodies were found on Sunday and Monday. Survivors told the crew they saw four people immediately drown when the boat capsized, the Miami Herald said.
The newspaper reported that this was the second of two boats filled with migrants from Cuba. A person on the first boat said it left Havana with “a large group of people” on Nov. 13. The person said he survived when the boat capsized, but nobody else did. He ended up being picked up by another boat with 18 Cuban migrants, the Miami Herald said.
Groll said the Florida Straits tend to have unpredictable weather, especially during hurricane season.
“That just makes it even more dangerous,” she said, especially when people come over in “makeshift” or “rustic” boats.
“The tragic part is that we don’t know how many people we aren’t saving,” Groll said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.