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An all-night search on the storm-tossed waters of the Niagara River failed to turn up any sign of boaters who may have set off signal flares spotted overnight, agencies reported early today.

Coast Guard crews spent the night on the river, and an Erie County Sheriff's Department helicopter with special infrared equipment was involved in the search effort near the International Railroad Bridge and Strawberry Island.

"There were a couple of flare sightings reported," said Capt. Kevin Caffery, pilot of the Sheriff's Department helicopter.

"We had a look, and everything appeared to be OK. The Coast Guard had searched all night, and they didn't come up with anything either," he said.

The Sheriff's Department helicopter was diverted to the area on its return from a 4:30 a.m. search for armed robbers being pursued in fields near Lockport by the Niagara County Sheriff's Department.

Work crews have begun efforts to strengthen the eroding shoreline of Strawberry Island, but no workers were reported on the island overnight.

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