Wed, Jul 29, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Refugee boat capsizes, at least 85 Haitians missing


At least 85 people are missing after a boat carrying Haitian migrants capsized and sank off the Turks and Caicos Islands, the US Coast Guard said yesterday.

One survivor said the boat struck a reef as it tried to elude police.

Rescuers found 113 survivors stranded on two reefs and recovered two bodies, said Lieutenant Commander Matt Moorlag, a Coast Guard spokesman in Miami, revising an earlier statement that four bodies had been found.

“Our main goal right now is just to get everybody out of the water and get medical attention for those who need it,” said Petty Officer Third Class Sabrina Elgammal, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

The shipwreck occurred around 2pm on Monday. By late evening, Turks and Caicos officials using small boats had rescued about 40 people stranded on a reef 3km southeast of West Caicos island. Many others were later found on a nearby reef, Moorlag said.

The boat carrying up to 200 Haitians had been at sea for three days when passengers saw a police vessel and accidentally steered the boat onto a reef as they tried to hide, survivor Alces Julien said at a hospital were some survivors were receiving treatment.

Elgammal said information from survivors indicates that between 160 and 200 people were on board when the vessel capsized near this island chain north of Haiti and southeast of the Bahamas. She said the cause of the accident is under investigation.

A Coast Guard cutter has been searching through the night for survivors, and Moorlag said a helicopter and a jet would join the search at first light.

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