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9839: Boat with Haitian migrants runs aground in Florida (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

    MIAMI, Dec 3 (Reuters) - A wooden sailboat carrying more than 180
Haitian migrants ran aground in Biscayne National Park in southeast Florida
early on Monday, park rangers and the U.S. Coast Guard said.
     The 30-foot (9-metre) vessel ran aground in 3 feet (1 metre) of water
at the southern end of the park at the tip of the Florida peninsula. Park
rangers described it as "grossly overloaded" and "in real poor shape."
     They said several passengers tried to wade to shore and were being
rounded up by police and Border Patrol agents.
     "There are strong currents. ... Apparently, folks were in the water
and got to different islands. They're still looking for folks out there,"
park spokesman Gary Bremen said.
     Coast Guard Petty Officer Gene Smith said the Haitians would be put
aboard a Coast Guard cutter, where immigration officials would interview
them to determine whether any of them had grounds to enter the United
     The undocumented migrants told park rangers they had been at sea for
10 days, but it was unclear where they sailed from.
     More than 200 Haitians are missing and presumed to have died at sea
after sailing for Florida from Ile-a-Vache in southern Haiti in two groups
on or about Nov. 1.
     Their relatives suspect the boats capsized during Hurricane Michelle,
which ripped through Cuba and the Bahamas a few days later. No wreckage was
found but none of the passengers has been heard from.
     Most Haitian migrants who attempt the 600-mile (960-km) journey to
Florida by sea are fleeing poverty and looking for better job prospects in
the United States.
     The Coast Guard, which repatriated 1,400 Haitian migrants last year,
has seen a jump in the number of vessels attempting the voyage since the
Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The surge had apparently been
spurred by false reports the United States changed its immigration policy
to bring in more workers because of the attacks, the Coast Guard said.