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9784: 200 Haitians are presumed dead (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

200 Haitians are presumed dead
Florida-bound rickety boats are missing

More than 200 Haitian migrants attempting to reach Florida in two rickety 
boats earlier this month are presumed drowned, a Haitian government official 
said Wednesday.

Esperand Dominique, a regional director of social affairs for the Haitian 
government, said family members have not heard from two groups of Haitian 
migrants who left Ile-a-Vache island off Haiti's south coast.

The first boat with some 150 Haitians aboard left Nov. 1, while the second, 
with 63 migrants aboard, departed the next day. Hurricane Michelle hit Cuba 
and the Bahamas a few days later, passing south of Florida. The boats may 
have capsized in the turbulent seas, Dominique said.

``Their families have abandoned hope,'' he said.

If the boats did sink, it would be one of the worst Haitian migrant 
tragedies at sea in recent years. In 1992, some 380 Haitian migrants died 
when the freighter Vierge Miracle sank off Cuba.

Jean Mesidor, of Maryland, said he received word from his parents in Haiti 
that he had 15 relatives on board the second boat that left from 
Ile-a-Vache, including his brother Junior.

``My parents did not want him to leave. When they heard he had left, they 
called me,'' Mesidor said.

Mesidor said he also has heard unconfirmed reports that some of the migrants 
are in Jamaica, so he doesn't know what to believe. Jamaican immigration 
officials could not immediately be reached.

Haitian community activist Marleine Bastien, who made a plea on Haitian 
radio for family members of the missing to come forward, said she has not 
heard from anyone.

``If we had more information we could go to the Coast Guard and say we have 
this,'' Bastien said. ``Without any details, it's very difficult.''

Bastien and Bahamian immigration officials say more migrants are likely. 
Because of the post-terror attack economic recession, relatives in the 
United States are less able to send money to family in Haiti and other 

This report was supplemented by information from The Associated Press.

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