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#3385: U.S. Rescues Shipwrecked Haitians (fwd)


Friday April 28 10:40 AM ET 
 U.S. Rescues Shipwrecked Haitians

 By JESSICA ROBERTSON, Associated Press Writer 

 NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) - U.S. and Bahamian forces rescued 288 Haitian
migrants whose boat ran aground in the southern Bahamas, officials said
today. At least two people - and possibly as many as 14 - died during
the voyage. The U.S. Coast Guard evacuated 65 people suffering from
severe hypothermia, dehydration and kidney failure on Thursday, a day
after the ship ran aground off Flamingo Cay in the Ragged Island chain,
about 250 miles from Haiti. They were flown by helicopter to hospitals
in Nassau and Great Exuma, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Gibran Soto.
Another 223 Haitians were being taken to Nassau today by a Bahamian
Defense Force ship. Rescuers found two bodies on the Haitian vessel,
Soto said by telephone from Miami. Officials had yet to confirm
migrants' reports that another 12 people died during the voyage.
U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and a C-130 aircraft ran dozens of flights,
ferrying survivors and supplies, before the operation ended overnight,
Soto said. The aircraft were deployed from Clearwater, Fla. In all, the
boat carried at least 290 Haitians - the largest single load of migrants
to reach the Bahamas in years, officials said. Survivors eventually will
be returned to Haiti. Three sailing vessels spotted the wreck and
alerted officials. The trip from Haiti to the Bahamas or to Florida's
coast is a risky journey, but one that more and more impoverished
Haitians have been willing to take. On Wednesday morning, another 122
Haitians landed on Inagua, the southernmost island in the Bahamian chain
just over 100 miles from Haiti's northern coast. Officials in Florida
said they found 15 Haitians dropped off Wednesday night near Key
Biscayne by a motor boat running without lights. Two suspects from the
smuggling vessel were arrested, one Bahamian and one Haitian, the
Immigration and Naturalization Service said. The Haitians said they paid
$4,000 each for the trip, Border Patrol spokesman Joseph Mellia said.
 The dramatic increase in the number of Haitians seeking refuge in the
Bahamas coincides with increasing violence in Haiti as the nation gears
up for long-postponed legislative elections. But the director of Haiti's
National Migration Office, Carol Joseph, said he did not believe
politics had a hand in the emigration. ``It's a sign of economic
despair,'' he said Thursday, noting that it takes months to prepare such
voyages and that most migrants were subsistence farmers from Haiti's
northwest, not the capital where most of the political violence has been
occurring. Bahamian officials say they have no idea how many Haitians
manage to reach the islands undetected. Though there is no official
figure, some estimate as many as 40,000 Haitians live among the 300,000