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Saturday, 17 March, 2001, 01:44 GMT
Thirty feared drowned in Caribbean
Map
At least 30 people are reported drowned and more than 60 are missing after two boats carrying illegal migrants sank in separate incidents in the Caribbean.

One boat sank early Thursday morning off the southern end of Ile-a-Vache, a small island some 140 km (90 miles) southwest of the Haitina capital Port-au-Prince, according to officials.

More than 15 bodies have been found and another 40 are feared dead, the victims being Dominican, Chinese and Haitian.

The boat had sailed from the Dominican Republic intending to travel illegally to Puerto Rico, according to officials.

A French factory vessel rescued two men, thought to be from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. A Dutch Coast Guard vessel also rescued two Puerto Ricans who were members of the crew and handed them over to French authorities.

Aiming for Miami

At least 15 bodies were found after a second vessel was wrecked off the small island of St. Martin, a French territory.

Some bodies were found in the submerged wreck of the Esperanza and others after they washed ashore, according to US Coast Guard officials in Miami.

A coast guard said the survivors were being questioned by French authorities, who were investigating the possibility of immigrant smuggling.

Two survivors told rescuers they had been in the sea for hours, clinging onto wreckage from the Esperenza.

Engine trouble

The pair said the Esperenza had been buffeted by a huge wave which destabilised it, causing panic aboard.

When a second wave almost submerged the boat, many passengers jumped into the sea without life jackets.

The boat is reported to have had engine trouble which left it unable to steer through the waves.

Thousands of Dominicans undertake the dangerous sea passage to Puerto Rico every year, hoping to improve their lives on the relatively wealthy US island.

In January, around 50 Dominicans who were trying to reach the United States commonwealth of Puerto Rico by sea drowned when their boat capsized.

Last year a total of 1,807 Dominicans without documents were arrested on arrival in Puerto Rico or when trying to get there.

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09 Mar 00 | Americas
Ten die in Caribbean shipwreck
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