US coast guard searching for 39 people after boat capsizes off Florida coast

The US coast guard are searching for 39 people after a boat capsized off Florida coast on Saturday night.

Officials were alerted on Tuesday morning after fishermen spotted a man clinging to the hull of a boat 45 miles from Fort Pierce inlet.

A survivor from the vessel said the group had embarked from Bimini, Bahamas, on Saturday night but soon encountered rough seas.

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The island of Bimini is roughly 80 miles from Miami.

The survivor, who has not been identified, also said that none of the passengers were wearing life jackets.

US officials say the boat may have been part of a "human smuggling venture".

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In a statement they said: "Navigating the Florida Straits, Windward and Mona Passages in overloaded and less than seaworthy passages is extremely dangerous and can result in loss of life," the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Officials say that the alarm was raised when a survivor clinging to the overturned vessel was rescued by a passing craft east of the state’s Fort Pierce Inlet.

"The Coast Guard and our partner agencies will continue to stop these voyages. You will be interdicted and should expect to be returned and repatriated to your country of origin."

Chief Warrant Officer James Kinney siad in a statement: “It is extremely dangerous to navigate the Florida Straits in an unseaworthy vessel, especially off the Florida Keys where the water is extra treacherous with shoals and reefs.

“Thanks to the quick coordination among so many different agencies, no lives were lost during this interdiction.”

The search was being led by the Miami Coast Guard sector using ships and aircrafts.

By Tuesday afternoon, no further survivors had been found.

Officials are searching from Bimini to Fort Pierce, an area roughly 135 miles wide.