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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
Haitian migrants die as boat capsizes
Great Inagua, in Bahamas
The migrants had only travelled about 60 miles
At least 12 Haitian migrants have been killed when their overloaded sail boat capsized in the Bahamas on Friday.

The vessel is thought to have tipped up when the occupants panicked and ran to one side after the US Coast Guard shone a light on the boat.

A total of 73 people were rescued from the boat, thought to have been carrying about 100 Haitians.

When the occupants of the boat saw the Coast Guard vessel, it appears that the shift in people ... caused it to capsize

Louis Diaz, US Coast Guard spokesman

Six people drowned in the boat's hold.

The US Coast Guard and Royal Bahamas Defence Force crews are still said to be looking for a possible 15 people unaccounted for, Coast Guard officials said.


The 11metre (35 foot) boat overturned 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Great Inagua, an island 120 kilometres (75 miles) off Haiti's north coast.

The US Coast Guard challenged the boat - one of two vessels carrying migrants - at around 0400 on Friday.

They saw the boat capsize "right in front of them" said Lieutenant Commander Ron LaBrec, spokesman for the US Coast Guard in Miami.

Luis Diaz, another Coast Guard spokesman, said: "When the occupants of the boat saw the Coast Guard vessel, it appears that the shift in people ... caused it to capsize."

He said the boat had a sail, but no engine, radio or life jackets on board.


Divers from the Bahamas Defence Force found six of the 12 victims trapped in the hold of the sloop.

The Coast Guard let the other boat go, preoccupied with the rescue mission.

Haitians frequently try to escape the poverty of their homeland by taking to the seas of the Bahamas to the US.

Often travelling in unstable boats, they are sometimes left stranded on remote Bahamian islands or lost at sea.

"This is an extremely dangerous voyage that has resulted in many Haitian deaths in the past," Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Ron LaBrec said.

See also:

04 Dec 01 | Americas
US finds Haitian migrants
29 Nov 01 | Americas
Haiti migrants feared drowned
21 Mar 02 | Americas
Timeline: Haiti
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