Migrant boat overturns in Bahamas; 10 dead

AP News
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Posted: Nov 26, 2013 11:27 AM

MIAMI (AP) — A sailboat packed with dozens of migrants from Haiti apparently struck a reef and capsized in the Bahamas, reportedly killing at least 10 people, authorities said Tuesday.

Low-resolution photos taken by the U.S. Coast Guard during a rescue operation showed about 100 people on the boat, clinging to every available space on the overturned vessel off Staniel Cay in the Bahamas.

The Royal Bahamas Defense Force and U.S. Coast Guard launched the rescue operation on Monday night and the search for survivors was still going on Tuesday. Officials from both agencies said the exact death toll remained unknown.

"Right now the main concern in making sure we can rescue these people and get them back to safety," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios.

Staniel Cay is about 80 miles (125 kilometers) southeast of Nassau, the Bahamian capital. It is part of the Exuma chain and is surrounded by low-lying reefs.

The boat, in addition to being overloaded, likely encountered choppy water, said Lt. Origin Deleveaux, a spokesman for the Royal Bahamas Defense Force.

Migrants have long passed through the Bahamian archipelago in overloaded vessels, generally either seeking to settle in the Bahamas or reach the nearby United States.