A boat en route to the United States with Haitian migrants on board capsized off the coast of the Bahamas on Sunday, reportedly leaving at least 17 people dead, reported the Washington Post.
Aubynette Rolle, managing director of the Bahamas’ Public Hospitals Authority, noted that one male and 16 females, including a toddler, were among the deceased.
Bahamas Police Commissioner Clayton Fernander told reporters Sunday that “an estimated 50 to 60 people were believed to have been on board the 20-ft speedboat and that the search for survivors or bodies was ongoing.”
Twenty-five people were rescued and turned over to health officials for medical examinations.
Two of those rescued were Bahamian men who allegedly assisted or lead the voyage said Fernander. The others were thought to all be Haitian migrants.
Ryan Pinder, the island’s attorney general and acting health minister, noted that three of the rescued, two women and one man, were hospitalized with “injuries and ailments as a result of near-drowning incidents.”
According to reports, one woman was pulled from the capsized boat after officers heard knocking from the hull; she was kept alive by a small air pocket. After daybreak, teams struggled overnight to identify the boat’s ocean-blue hull.
Bahamian authorities responded to reports of a “boating incident” around 1 a.m. on Sunday, said Bahamas’Prime Minister Philip Davis at a news conference with health and safety officials.
“Rescue teams recovered 17—sadly— 17 bodies from the water,” he added.
“Preliminary investigations suggest that a twin-engine speed boat left a docking facility off West Bay Street around 1 a.m. with approximately 60 people on board,” continued the Prime Minister. “It is believed that their final destination was Miami, Florida.”
Davis said his administration has “continuously warned against these treacherous voyages.”
“We take this opportunity to strongly condemn the organization of smuggling operations which risk human life and compromise our national security. Those found to be involved will face prosecution,” he said. “I understand the situations that many of these migrants face, that have encouraged them to take such great risk. We, however, appeal to those considering making such a voyage not to do so.”