20 Haitian migrants confirmed dead after sailboat capsizes in Bahamas



This handout image provided by the US Coast Guard shows about 100 Haitian migrants sitting on the hull of their sailboat on Tuesday, a day after it ran aground and capsized near Staniel Cay in the central Bahamas.


U.S. Coast Guard

Twenty Haitian migrants have been confirmed dead after a sailboat carrying 150 people capsized in the Bahamas.

Lt. Origin Deleveaux, a Royal Bahamas Defense Force spokesman, said the number of dead could climb as high as 30, based on accounts from survivors.

Rescue workers were still searching for survivors from the overloaded wooden freighter that ran aground and capsized near Staniel Cay in the central Bahamas on Monday night.

The Royal Bahamas Defense Force and the US Coast Guard said they had rescued about 110 people by late Tuesday.

Thirteen of the survivors were severely dehydrated and taken by a US Coast Guard helicopter to Staniel Cay for treatment.

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US Coast Guard plane and helicopters also dropped 10 quick-inflating life rafts into the water to help keep survivors afloat until a Royal Bahamas Defense Force patrol boat could save them from the water.

"They drop it right next to them and they can swim over. Once they're out of the water they have a better chance of surviving," said Petty Officer Mark Barney, a Coast Guard spokesman in Miami. "There's just so many people in the water."

US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss called the incident an "avoidable tragedy" common to the area.

"Unfortunately we see these types of tragedies occur on a monthly basis," Doss said. "Every year we see hundreds of migrants needlessly lose their lives at sea taking part in these dangerous and illegal voyages."