Haiti: 40 feared to have perished after migrant boat runs aground in Caribbean

Migrants often head to the Turks and Caicos in an effort to reach the US

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The dream of a better future may have cost up to 40 Haitians their lives after a boat carrying migrants ran aground while bound for the Turks and Caicos Island.

Reports said that 21 dead bodies had been recovered since the ship went down off Haiti's northern coast in the early hours of Thursday. The US Coast Guard is involved in efforts to try and locate survivors, Reuters said.

“The Haitian Coast Guard rescued 12 survivors but advised that 19 were still missing,” the US Coast Guard said in a statement.

A US Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew joined the search on Friday morning, searching Haiti’s north coast between the cities of Cap Haitien and Port de Paix. The statement said it found no sings of life, the Coast Guard added. Elsewhere, bodies have washed ashore.

The authorities in Haiti said the ship, a sailboat carrying about 50 passengers headed for the Turks and Caicos Islands, sank near the coastal town of Le Borgne on the north coast.

The boat apparently tried to turn back due to high seas and ran aground on a reef, the Haitian government said in a statement.

Migrants from Haiti, Cuba and other Caribbean countries frequently sail through the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas in an attempt to reach the United States, often in overloaded and unseaworthy vessels, said Reuters.

In the past six months, the US Coast Guard said it has intercepted 309 Haitians at sea. That is a lower rate than the previous 12-month period, when 1,103 Haitians were rescued, according to the Coast Guard.

“Our crews are searching with every intention to find these missing people and bring them back to their loved ones,” said Capt Mark Fedor of the US Coast Guard.

“The sad truth remains that many have already perished and [we] urge all to reconsider taking the dangerous and illegal voyage at sea. Our condolences go out to all affected by this tragedy.”

The Haitian government urged Haitians to cease risking their lives on clandestine migrant smuggling boats, and condemned those who organise the illegal voyages.

Prime Minister Evans Paul offered his “profound sympathy and solidarity to the families" of the shipwreck victims.