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9841: Haitian migrants boat runs aground (later story) (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     MIAMI, Dec 3 (Reuters) - A wooden sailboat carrying 185 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 and Coast Guard officials described the boat as "grossly
overloaded" and poorly made with crude log spars. There were no reported
injuries, although a park spokesman described the passengers as "very
     "It is a miracle these people did not perish at sea," Coast Guard Lt.
Cmdr. Ron LaBrec said.
     Several passengers tried to wade to shore and were rounded up by
police and Border Patrol agents.
     "There are strong currents. ... Apparently, folks were in the water
and got to different islands," park spokesman Gary Bremen said.
     Fearing the vessel would capsize as the tide went out, Coast Guard
crews distributed life jackets and carefully took the remaining migrants
off the boat.
     The Haitians were put aboard a Coast Guard cutter, where immigration
officials would interview them to determine whether any of them had grounds
to enter the United States.
     The undocumented migrants told park rangers they had sailed from
Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti and had been at sea for 10 days.
     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.