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The BBC's Alice Grahame reports
"Survivors say the boat was just 55 metres from its destination"
 real 28k

Thursday, 9 March, 2000, 13:38 GMT
Ten die in Caribbean shipwreck
One boat survived the crossing intact
One boat survived the crossing intact
At least 10 people died when a boat crowded with immigrants from the Dominican Republic capsized off Puerto Rico.

Another 35 are missing, presumed dead.

Between 50 and 70 people were making the crossing of the shark-infested Mona Passage in two small boats, when one overturned only yards from the Puerto Rican shore.

Wave

Survivor Laura Pichardo Garcia, said: "When we reached the coast, a wave came over us and swept the boat around after one of the women fell into the water."

The crew dropped anchor to rescue the woman, but it overturned and was driven on to rocks.

At least 27 people travelling in the other boat, which landed safely, were caught and detained by the US Border Patrol near the Puerto Rican town of Isabela.

Some of the dead have been recovered
Some of the dead have been recovered
Hundreds of Dominicans attempt to enter the US commonwealth of Puerto Rico each year, either to find work or to travel on to the United States without going through immigration controls.

Their small boats are often overcrowded and unseaworthy.

US Border Patrol agent, James Robinson, said: "The boats are not well constructed and they break up. It's happened before."

Rescuers have been searching the sea for other occupants of the capsized boat, but without hope of finding any survivors.

The 75-mile (120-kilometre) crossing is treacherous, and the coast near Isabela is swept by fast currents.

Ms Garcia, a 28-year-old from the Dominican city of Santiago, said she, like everyone else on the boat, paid $170 for the illegal journey.

Nightmare

"We wanted a better life here and look what happened," she said from her detention cell.

"All this nightmare while others are enjoying the money we paid them."

Another survivor Jose Lopez, aged 26, said through tears: "We hopped on board and came to change our lives."

He had just identified the body of his sister, Luz Maria Lopez, aged 29.

Ms Garcia said she and others from Santiago gathered in the eastern Dominican town of Bavaro, then boarded the wooden boat at midnight Monday in secrecy, fearful of being detected by Dominican Navy patrols.

Jose Montas, the Dominican consul in Puerto Rico, said his government would launch an education campaign "to spare more Dominicans from being exploited in this human trafficking."


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23 Mar 98 |  Americas
Dominican shipwreck kills 18
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