Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Search continues for Haitian immigrants from boat wreckage

The search continues today for the Haitian immigrants who fled to the U.S. but didn't make it. The boat filled with over 200 passengers ran into a reef just off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the waves broke the ship a part.

So far 80 people are missing, The U.S. Coast Guard is going to continue to look, but says that the chances of finding more survivors are slim. From this Associated Press story that we found at WRAL, reporter Jennifer Kay talked to the local Coast Guard about the search.

Authorities cautioned that the outlook for more survivors wasn't bright given the long hours that had passed since the accident. Anyone still in the water would be struggling with 23 mph (37 kph) winds and 6-foot (2-meter) seas, officials said.

"We hope that there are survivors and we can get them medical attention," U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Johnson said. "However, as time goes by, it becomes less and less likely because of exposure and fatigue."

She said Coast Guard ships, airplanes and a helicopter joined local authorities and volunteers in searching a 1,600-square-mile area Tuesday.

Turks and Caicos officials were moving quickly to send the ill-fated migrants back to impoverished Haiti, saying 60 were flown home Tuesday. Fifty-eight more spent Tuesday night under blankets on cots in a gym, and an unspecified number were at another detention site or in the hospital. The bodies of the unlucky 15 lay in a makeshift morgue.

It still wasn't clear when the boat wrecked. Johnson said the accident occurred Monday afternoon, but Deputy Police Commissioner Hubert Hughes said it could have happened Sunday night. Turks and Caicos reported the disaster Monday to the Coast Guard, which patrols the area for drug traffickers and illegal migrants and helps in search and rescue efforts.

The sailboat, crowded with about 200 men, women and teenagers fleeing Haiti's deep poverty, broke up as it tried to maneuver through treacherous coral reefs and was struck by heavy swells near West Caicos. It's part of an archipelago that has proved deadly for Haitians trying to escape their homeland's misery to find a better life elsewhere.

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