Search underway for missing migrants after Ian sinks vessel

Hurricane Ian

Boats are anchored in Charlotte Harbor ahead of Hurricane Ian, in Punta Gorda, Florida on September 28, 2022. – Ian intensified to just shy of catastrophic Category 5 strength Wednesday as its heavy winds began pummelling Florida, with forecasters warning of life-threatening storm surges after leaving millions without power in Cuba. (Photo by Ricardo ARDUENGO / AFP) (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — U.S. Border Patrol agents are searching for a group of migrants who were on board a vessel that sank in Stock Island, Florida, after being caught in inclement weather brought on by Hurricane Ian.

Border Patrol agents and members of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office responded Wednesday to the migrant landing, according to a tweet from Miami Sector Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar.

Four Cuban migrants swam to shore after the vessel sank. The Southeast Coast Guard has initiated a search-and-rescue operation to search for another 23 people, Slosar tweeted.

Later in the day, Wednesday, the Coast Guard tweeted three of the migrants had been rescued 2 miles south of Boco Chica. They were hospitalized with exhaustion and dehydration.

Additional details about the search or the conditions of the passengers were not immediately available.

The Category 4 hurricane has produced maximum sustained winds of 155 mph — 2 mph short of intensifying to a Category 5, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is expected to bring life-threatening storm surges, rain and power outages throughout Florida.

The bulk of Florida’s west coast, including the Tampa Bay area, is currently under a storm surge warning, and several counties have issued mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders.  

U.S. Border Patrol has warned migrants not to take to the water. Over the last weekend, Solasar tweeted 50 migrants from Cuba were taken into custody after landing on the Florida Keys in makeshift vessels.

Another seven were taken into custody in Pompano Beach a day before Hurricane Ian started pounding the coast on the other side of the state.

Those trying to escape Cuba have attempted the dangerous trip for years, however, it appears to be an increasing trend. The U.S. Coast Guard told CNN since last October, about 6,000 Cubans have been intercepted.

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