MIAMI: A sailboat passing through the southern Bahamas islands with about 150 Haitian migrants on board capsized after running aground, killing up to 30 people and leaving the rest clinging to the vessel for hours, authorities said Tuesday.
The exact death toll remained uncertain. Authorities on the scene confirmed at least 20 dead and determined the number could reach 30 based on accounts from survivors, said Lt. Origin Deleveaux, a Royal Bahamas Defense Force spokesman.
The remains of five victims had been recovered and the Bahamas military and police were working with the U.S. Coast Guard to recover additional bodies as they pulled survivors from the stranded sailboat.
“Right now, we are just trying to recover as many bodies as we possibly can,” Deleveaux said.
Authorities believe the migrants had been at sea for eight to nine days with limited food and water and no life jackets, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma said. The boat, in addition to being overloaded, likely encountered rough weather, Deleveaux said.
Overloaded vessels frequently capsize in the area, most recently in mid-October when four Haitian women died off Miami.
“Unfortunately we see these types of tragedies occur on a monthly basis,” Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss said.