20 migrants found dead off the Bahamas

/ Source: The Associated Press

The bodies of 20 Haitians have been recovered from the sea near the Bahamas after their boat capsized, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday as it searched for survivors.

Three survivors — two Haitians and one Honduran — have been found, said Barry Bena, a Coast Guard spokesman in Miami. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson said all 20 whose bodies were recovered were Haitian, correcting an initial report that one was Honduran.

The survivors said their boat was carrying 24 people when it capsized around 10 p.m. Saturday, according to another Coast Guard spokesman, Luis Diaz.

The search-and-rescue mission began Sunday after fishermen heard people screaming in the water before dawn.

The accident happened about 15 miles northwest of Nassau, Bahamas, according to the Coast Guard. A cutter, helicopter and a jet from the Coast Guard and two Bahamas military vessels continued searching the area Monday.

Diaz said the Bahamian government was holding the survivors.

Every year, thousands of Haitians try to leave the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country aboard rickety, overloaded boats for other islands or the United States.

Soaring food prices have pushed many into abject poverty and triggered riots earlier this month in Haiti, but this has not translated so far into a spike in the number of migrants.

Last year a migrant boat capsized near the Turks and Caicos islands, pitching Haitians into shark-infested waters. At least 61 people died.