tampabay.com

Haitians capsize, sharks circle

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 5, 2007


SOUTH DOCK, Turks and Caicos Islands - Every year, Haitians by the hundreds set off in rickety boats hoping to escape poverty by sneaking into the United States. The perils became gruesomely apparent Friday when a boat capsized, flinging migrants into shark-infested waters.

Hours after the sailing vessel overturned in moonlit morning waters a half-mile from shore, rescuers had recovered more than a dozen bodies - some with savage bite wounds - and were searching for about 60 missing people.

The Turks and Caicos government said the boat was carrying some 160 people and that 78 survivors, mostly male, were rescued. Police recovered 16 bodies, the government said.

Some survivors were spotted by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter clinging to the hull of their overturned vessel, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Barry Bena. A C-130 plane from the Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater and a cutter also were dispatched to search.

It could become the worst disaster in years to hit Haitian migrants, who jam into boats to attempt the treacherous journey. The boat that overturned Friday was only about 25 feet long.

Survivors were taken to a detention center on Providenciales, and will be sent back to Haiti.

Fast Facts:

Haitian flight

This year, the Coast Guard has intercepted 909 Haitians, compared with 769 during all of 2006 and 1, 828 in 2005. During the turbulent year of the 2004 rebellion, 3, 078 were caught.