At least 17 people were killed, including an infant, when a boat carrying about 60 people fleeing Haiti capsized off The Bahamas, tumbling them into the water.
About 25 people were rescued, and some were possibly missing, the Bahamian prime minister announced Sunday.
The “boating incident” occurred seen miles off New Providence early Sunday, Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis said in a statement.
“A multi-agency investigation is under way to determine the full circumstances surrounding a suspected human smuggling operation which has resulted in the deaths of Haitian migrants,” he said.
Reports came through just after 1 a.m. Sunday, David said.
“A rescue operation ensued immediately,” Davis said. “Rescue teams recovered 17 bodies from the water; 15 females, one male and one infant. 25 persons were rescued and were turned over to health officials for monitoring.”
Authorities said a twin-engine speed boat carrying about 60 people had left The Bahamas, headed toward Miami, and had then capsized in rough seas. It was traveling a route that’s popular for Haitian migrants trying to get to the U.S., ABC News reported.
Bahamian Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander told ABC News that one of the passengers had been found alive under the boat’s hull, apparently spared by an air pocket.
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A criminal investigation was underway as well, and two people had been taken into custody on suspicion of human smuggling, ABC News reported.
People are increasingly fleeing gang-related violence that is spiking in Haiti, including killings and kidnappings.
More than 6,100 Haitian migrants have been intercepted and turned back since last October as they attempted to reach U.S. shores, the U.S. Coast Guard told ABC News.
At the same time, there have been a rash of ship sinkings in the Caribbean this year. In May, 11 people died and 38 were rescued when a vessel sank off Puerto Rico. In January, 38 people went missing after a boat carrying 40 migrants sank off Florida. One man died and another was rescued in that incident. The missing were never found.
Davis noted that such voyages are treacherous.
“I would like to convey the condolences of my government and the people of The Bahamas to the families of those who lost their lives in this tragedy,” Davis said. “We take this opportunity to strongly condemn the organization of smuggling operations which risk human life and compromise our national security. Those found to be involved will face prosecution. I understand the situation that many of these migrants face that would encourage them to take such great risk. We however appeal to those considering making such a voyage, not to.”
With News Wire Services