1 Body Recovered, 38 Migrants Still Missing After Boat Capsizes Off Florida Coast

The U.S. Coast Guard has found one body and is still searching for 38 more people missing in the ocean between the Bahamas and the Florida coast after a boat capsized in a suspected failed human smuggling operation.

A Coast Guard release said a "good Samaritan" saved a man clinging to a capsized vessel near Florida's Fort Pierce Inlet on Tuesday morning. The survivor was brought to a local hospital for dehydration and sun exposure.

The survivor told authorities that he and 39 others had left from the island of Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday but were hit with extreme weather and the vessel capsized Sunday morning, the release said. He also added that no one was wearing a life jacket.

At a Wednesday news conference, Captain Jo-Ann F. Burdian said the priority was finding survivors, but she described the situation as "dire," Miami's WTVJ reported. The Coast Guard has found one body in its search effort.

"The longer they remain in the water…exposed to the marine environment…with every moment that passes, it becomes much more dire and more unlikely" that there will be survivors, Burdian said, according to WTVJ.

According to the Cost Guard report, cutter crews searched over 1,300 square miles, about the size of Rhode Island, on Tuesday. At the news conference, Burdian said that at least four ships and five aircrafts had scanned about 7,500 nautical miles, about the size of New Jersey, by Wednesday morning, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Burdian said the search will continue through Wednesday before a decision is made on how long to continue with the search effort, the Sun Sentinel added.

"We can't search forever and there does come a point where, as the authority who makes the determination to suspend active searching, I have to make that tough decision to bring assets home and stop actively searching," she was quoted in the Sun Sentinel report.

The Coast Guard's release said there was a small craft advisory in place in the area on Saturday and Sunday due to a severe cold front, winds as strong as 23 miles per hour and swells as high as 9 feet.

Though Bimini is 55 miles east of Miami, the survivor was found 100 miles north of the island, as the Gulf Stream—the warm current flowing north along the U.S. Atlantic coast—pushed the boat north, WTVJ reported.

An airplane found the body then directed a Coast Guard ship to its location, the Sun Sentinel reported. Burdian said the body will be taken to Fort Pierce on Wednesday. She did not know how far the body had gotten from the boat when authorities recovered it.

As for the survivor, Burdian said he is now in the Department of Homeland Security's custody, the Associated Press reported.

Coast Guard, Miami, Florida
The U.S. Coast Guard continues search and rescue operations for survivors after a boat believed to be involved in a human smuggling operation capsized off the Florida coast. Above, Coast Guard members work on a cutter at the Coast Guard Sector Miami base on January 26 in Miami. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images