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9784: 200 Haitians are presumed dead (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
200 Haitians are presumed dead
Florida-bound rickety boats are missing
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
More than 200 Haitian migrants attempting to reach Florida in two rickety
boats earlier this month are presumed drowned, a Haitian government official
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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