Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Haitian boat escaping to the U.S. capsize and drowns

A boat full of Haitians trying to find a better life in the U.S. capsized and sank near the Turks and Caicos Islands. The U.S. Coast Guard says they have found 113 survivors, but 85 people are still missing. The boat struck a reef nearby the islands as it was trying to elude from police.

From this Assoicated Press story that we found at KSWB, San Diego, reporter Vivian Tyson gives us more on the wreck.

"Our main goal right now is just to get everybody out of the water and get medical attention for those who need it," said Petty Officer Third Class Sabrina Elgammal, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

The shipwreck happened around 2 p.m. Monday. By late evening, Turks and Caicos authorities using small boats had rescued about 40 people stranded on a reef 2 miles (3 kilometers) southeast of West Caicos island. Many others were later found on a nearby reef, Moorlag said.

The boat carrying up to 200 Haitians had been at sea for three days when passengers saw a police vessel and accidentally steered the boat onto a reef as they tried to hide, survivor Alces Julien told The Associated Press at a hospital were some survivors were receiving treatment.

Elgammal said information from survivors indicates that between 160 and 200 people were on board when the vessel capsized near this island chain north of Haiti and southeast of the Bahamas. She said the cause of the accident is under investigation.

A Coast Guard cutter has been searching through the night for survivors, and Moorlag said a helicopter and a jet will join the search at first light. He said a C-130 aircraft was expected Tuesday morning to help in the search.

Haitians routinely take to the seas in rickety, overcrowded boats in hopes of escaping poverty in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

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