18 Haitian immigrants drown after boat capsizes

Thursday 26 December 2013 22.15
US Coast Guard attended the scene in which at least 18 people are thought to have drowned
US Coast Guard attended the scene in which at least 18 people are thought to have drowned

A search is ongoing after at least 18 people died off the Turks and Caicos islands when a sailboat carrying more than 50 suspected immigrants capsized while being towed into port, officials said.

32 Haitians were pulled from the waters about 100 metres off Providenciales, an island in the Turks and Caicos islands north of Haiti in the Caribbean, according to the US Coast Guard.

The survivors are being held in a Turks and Caicos immigration detention and removal centre.

Turks and Caicos police intercepted the boat around 3am on Christmas day, according to a statement on the governor's office Facebook page.

It capsized about two hours later as authorities towed the boat into port.

"Police are still searching for the handful of people who reached shore and fled the scene, and their investigations into the incident continue," the statement said.

The US Coast Guard deployed two helicopters to the scene after local authorities requested help, US Coast Guard Petty Officer Sabrina Laberbesque said.

Two fast-response vessels from Florida Coast Guard bases were also dispatched.

Dozens of Haitians have died in similar accidents in recent years, as many seek to escape an island still reeling from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Keywords: haiti