A migrant boat overloaded with people from Haiti ran into the bow of a Coast Guard cutter on Thursday, according to the agency.
The collision with the Cutter Confidence did not result in injuries or significant damage to either vessel. But, given the number of people on board the migrant vessel, which appeared from a photo released by the Coast Guard to be a small freighter or ferry, the situation could have turned tragic if they fell overboard.
The boat was turned back to Haiti, said Petty Officer Nicole Groll, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said there was no official number of people on board. But, she added, “more than 200 is a very conservative estimate.”
The incident happened about 35 miles northwest of Môle Saint-Nicolas, a town on the northwestern coast of Haiti.
The attempted voyage appeared to be part of a trend in maritime migration from Haiti to South Florida that the Coast Guard says is the largest since the early 2000s. Since Oct. 1, the Coast Guard said it has stopped 5,003 people from Haiti on the water.
The increase in migration is due to people desperate to flee deteriorating life-safety, political and economic conditions in the country.
If the boat had made it to South Florida, it potentially could have been the largest migrant landing in the region since 356 people from Haiti arrived off the gated community of Ocean Reef Club in north Key Largo on March 6 aboard an overloaded boat.
The Coast Guard is also dealing with a surge in Cuban migrants en route to South Florida — the largest influx in six years. Since Oct. 1, the Coast Guard has stopped 1,910 people from Cuba along the Florida Straits.
A cutter returned 48 people to Cuba the Coast Guard stopped off the Florida Keys between last Saturday and Tuesday.