SOUTH DOCK, Turks and Caicos Islands - The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for about 40 Haitian migrants missing after their boat sank in the Caribbean, saying officials believed there was little likelihood of finding more survivors.
Local authorities, however, were continuing the search even though no survivors or corpses had been found at sea yesterday, a day after the deadliest maritime disaster to befall Haitian migrants in years. Thirty-six people were confirmed dead in addition to the 40 missing.
Authorities on this British territory asked the U.S. Coast Guard to suspend its search, "apparently because they believed the likelihood of finding more survivors was very slim," Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Barry Bena told the Associated Press yesterday.
But Turks and Caicos Premier Michael Misick said that his government would "use all the resources at our disposal to ensure that all bodies are recovered."
Roughly 160 Haitian migrants were packed aboard a 25-foot boat when it ran into stormy weather before dawn Friday off the coast of this British territory. The remaining passengers have been rescued.
Survivors said passengers panicked and shifted to one side, overturning the vessel and spilling most of the migrants into the shark-infested waters.
At least three of the bodies fished from the water on Friday had been attacked by sharks, and some had limbs chewed off, Duncan said.
Duncan said the confirmed death toll rose to 36 when authorities found four bodies in the hold of the capsized sloop after it was towed back to port on the territory's main island of Providenciales, about 120 miles north of Haiti.