Ten die in suspected migrant capsize off Florida

MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. Coast Guard crews pulled 17 survivors and ten bodies from the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday, hours after a boat believed to be carrying illegal Haitian migrants sank off the Florida coast.

Coast Guard Captain James Fitton said the victims had been floating in the water for about 10 hours before they were spotted at about midday by a passing boater who alerted the authorities.

"One of the survivors told us they left Bimini sometime last night en route to south Florida. Around 2 a.m. their boat either hit something or capsized," Fitton said. "The indication is that it was a smuggling event."

A Coast Guard rescue of the victims was concentrated in the water about 15 miles (24 km) off Boynton Beach, a town some 30 miles (50 km) north of Fort Lauderdale, the Coast Guard said.

Seventeen people, including five taken to local hospitals, were plucked alive from the water, while ten others died, the Coast Guard said.

Caribbean migrants, mostly from Haiti and Cuba, frequently try to make the passage from their homelands to Florida in search of better living conditions.

The U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted more than 2,600 migrants in the last seven months including about 1,400 Haitians, 600 Dominicans and 500 Cubans. The previous year, they intercepted about 4,800.

(Reporting by Jim Loney; Editing by Tom Brown and Helen Popper)

Article Published: 14/05/2009