A boat smuggling Haitian migrants has sunk off the Bahamas, leaving at least 28 dead and 17 others in police custody, officials said on Sunday.
Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rolle of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force said that residents of the island of Abaco had found four bodies and at least 15 survivors off the Bahamian coast on Saturday, The Associated Press reported. Mr. Rolle said the ship appeared to be an American vessel engaged in people-smuggling.
By Sunday afternoon, local forces and the United States Coast Guard had found 28 bodies in and around a sunken ship, The A.P. said. The number of total rescued had risen to 17. The boat’s final destination was unclear.
The American Embassy in Haiti described the accident in a tweet early on Monday morning as “another tragic loss of life” and said the vessel had been “trafficking people out of Haiti.”
“No journey is worth risking lives,” the embassy said.
The Bahamian authorities have apprehended about 300 Haitians for illegal entry this year, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force said in a statement on Saturday.
In 2013, at least 30 Haitians who tried to sail to the United States were found drowned after their overloaded boat ran aground off the Bahamas and capsized. Fishermen had tipped off the local authorities about the 40-foot vessel days earlier, but the military was unable to conduct air searches because all three of its planes were out of service.
Once the Coast Guard eventually deployed a helicopter, it found the boat in about an hour, about 20 miles from where the fishermen had first reported seeing it.