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#3388: U.S. Rescues Shipwrecked Haitians (fwd)


Friday April 28 6:41 PM ET 

 U.S. Rescues Shipwrecked Haitians

 By JESSICA ROBERTSON, Associated Press Writer 

 NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard helicopter swooped down to
a dangerous nighttime landing on a deserted Bahamian island and found
288 shipwrecked Haitians, many weakened or unconscious from exposure and
 dehydration. The survivors, discovered Wednesday night and all brought
to safety by Friday, were from the biggest group of Haitian boat people
to reach the Bahamas in years.Rescuers found two bodies, and survivors
said 12 others either drowned or died of dehydration during the trip,
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Gibran Soto said Friday. Sixty-five
survivors were taken to hospital suffering from dehydration, hypothermia
 and kidney failure. The shipwreck highlighted fears that the Bahamas
and  the United States could face a new flood of Haitians  headed for
their shores. Aside from the group discovered at Flamingo Cay,another
122 Haitians landed Wednesday on Inagua, the southernmost Bahamian
island just 100 miles from Haiti's north coast. On April 21, 224
Haitians arrived. The new arrivals may just be a usual increase during
the Easter season, when migrants believe there will be fewer Coast Guard
patrols, Bahamian immigration director Vernon Burrows said. Still,
``there is major concern as to whether or not there is going to be some
mass exodus of persons out of Haiti into the Bahamas or the United
States during the next few months,'' Burrows told The Associated Press.
 There are no figures, but officials estimate there are as many as
40,000 Haitians living among the 300,000 Bahamians. Last year, 4,001
Haitian migrants were arrested in the Bahamas. In this year's four
months, 2,500 have been detained. The recent arrivals come amid
political violence in Haiti ahead of legislative elections. Survivors of
the latest journey said at least eight people drowned when their
 overcrowded homemade sloop crashed into rocks off Flamingo Cay in the
Ragged Island chain in the southern Bahamas, about 250 miles northwest
of Haiti. Another six died there of dehydration, they told officials.
 On Friday, 223 of the survivors were on a Bahamian Defense Force vessel
headed for the capital Nassau. They will be questioned, then deported.
Sixty-five others were in hospitals. It wasn't known how long the
Haitians were stranded on the tiny cay, with no water, food or
protection from glaring sunlight. Peter Barry, a Port St. Lucie, Fla.,
doctor on a pleasure boat called Tango, spotted them Wednesday night,
called for help and landed to treat survivors. The first helicopter
arrived about 11/2 hours after his call. ``It was a tough landing at
night,'' Coast Guard spokesman John Gaffney. The pilot landed ``with
wheels only feet from the water on a beach with a big slope and with
 the shoreline rising up and brush and rock on the other side so that
they had to be very careful about not striking rotors.''
 Two helicopters and a C-130 aircraft, all from Clearwater, Fla., ran
dozens of flights to ferry out those in need of medical treatment and
bring in supplies for those who had to wait. Two Coast Guard cutters and
a Bahamian Defense Force ship arrived with more medical help. Since
there were too many people to fit on the cutters, rescuers erected a
shelter from the sun using blankets, tarpaulins and ropes. ``Most of
them were lying under the shelter, lethargic, some of them sleeping, a
number were unalert and unresponsive, maybe semiconscious,'' Gaffney