- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2001

MIAMI (AP) Relatives of 30 Cubans whose vessel capsized in rough seas hoped desperately for encouraging news yesterday as the Coast Guard found a boat but no survivors.
Authorities said they found a capsized white, 30-foot twin-engine craft that may have been carrying the Cubans, including 12 or more children, on a clandestine trip to the United States.
Family members said the migrants left Cuba in a speedboat Friday and were expected in Florida by Saturday.
"A lot could have happened. I don't want to speculate, but it's not a very good scenario: rough seas, children aboard, not a lot of food and water aboard," said Luis Diaz, a spokesman at the Coast Guard's district headquarters in Miami. "We've given it our best shot."
The boat's ownership hadn't been determined, but Mr. Diaz said officials were "at least 90 percent certain" it was carrying the Cubans. The Coast Guard suspended the search at sunset yesterday.
In Havana, authorities yesterday said the missing group probably had died, and they blamed the United States.
Randy Alonso, moderator of the Communist government's daily "Round Table" TV program, read a government statement blaming the apparent deaths on the U.S. policy of offering Cubans asylum.
The effort came almost two years after the Thanksgiving Day rescue of Elian Gonzalez off the Florida coast. The boy's mother and 10 others died when their boat capsized on an illegal journey from Cuba to the United States.
U.S. Border Patrol officials said yesterday that 18 Cuban migrants were found near the shore of Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys. They told authorities they were smuggled by a Cuban man in a 30-foot white vessel who then departed, said Joe Mellia, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman. Mr. Mellia said those Cubans were not believed to be connected to those lost in the boat.
Crews searching waters near the Florida Keys found only a few potential clues, including a cooler and the remnants of a life jacket. A diver searched beneath the capsized vessel for bodies, and a salvage team planned to haul the boat to Key West, the Coast Guard said.
Relatives remained close to the telephone and prayed. David Castro said his daughter, Yaquelin Montanes Castro, 29, boarded the boat with her 8-year-old daughter to join him in the United States.


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