KEY LARGO, Fla. – A wooden boat carrying hundreds of Haitian migrants in a suspected human smuggling operation ran aground in shallow water in the Florida Keys, where 163 people swam ashore and many needed medical attention, federal authorities said.
The boat teeming with people listed sharply to its side near Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, not far from where another boat carrying 176 Haitians was stopped in January.
Many of the migrants were in need of medical attention, according to a tweet sent by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Agent Walter N. Slosar on Sunday night.
The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies rushed to help the group of migrants, which included women and children.
“Multiple agencies responded quickly & worked closely to protect a lot of lives today,” U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jason Neiman tweeted Sunday night.
It was not immediately know how many people were taken to hospitals. Coast Guard images at the scene showed a large group of Haitians draped in towels on the shore.
Border Patrol officials said human smuggling is suspected and an investigation is continuing.
In the past week, the Coast Guard has stopped two other Haitian boats navigating near the Bahamas with dozens of migrants.
On Feb. 28, crews spotted a Haitian sailboat with 179 people aboard 30 miles (50 kilometers) off Andros Island, Bahamas. Last Friday, the Coast Guard stopped another Haitian sail vessel with 123 people, including 39 minors about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Anguilla Cay, Bahamas.