2 dead as boat sinks in Haiti

July 28, 2009 12:00 am

, MIAMI, Jul 28 – At least 85 Haitian migrants were missing in open water off the Turks and Caicos islands after a boat carrying some 200 people capsized, killing two, the US Coast Guard said Tuesday.

Authorities rescued 113 survivors from reefs about 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) southeast of West Caicos island after the boat sank late Monday, Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson told AFP.

Four of the survivors were injured and taken to shore via helicopter. The death toll was revised downward to two from and earlier report of four.

Turks and Caicos police used small boats to rescue the stranded migrants while the US Coast Guard, she said, was assisting local authorities by assisting in the search and airlifting the injured to receive medical care.

"We’re just concentrating on locating those 85 people, determining if they are safe and then getting them the medical attention that they need," Johnson said.

"That is our primary concern right now."

Based on statements from survivors, the overloaded vessel left Haiti with about 160 people aboard and then stopped along the way, picking up additional people for an estimated total of 200 people aboard, Johnson said.

The vessel was likely headed for the Bahamas or the southeastern coast of the United States.

"These boats are sail freighters. They don’t have an engine, they have a makeshift sail, so wherever the boat takes them, they go," she said.

US officials said an HH-65 helicopter from Air Station Miami was at the accident scene and searching for survivors and that the coast guard Cutter Valiant was en route to the site.

Migrants from Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, often undertake perilous journeys aboard precarious and often overcrowded boats headed for the Caribbean or the United States.

A British-dependent island chain, the Turks and Caicos Islands are located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Haiti.


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