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Posted Saturday, May 5, 2007
Search suspended in Haiti boat disaster; remains of many dead migrants partially consumed by sharks
By Vivian Tyson, Associated Press Writer

SOUTH DOCK, May, 5, 2007 - 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 Saturday, 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 3rd Class Barry Bena told The Associated Press on Saturday.

But Turks and Caicos Premier Michael Misick said Saturday that his government would "use all the resources at our disposal to ensure that all bodies are recovered."

Several boats and helicopters belonging to the British dependency were searching on Saturday. Police Inspector Hilton Duncan would not speculate on when Turks and Caicos planned to suspend its search.

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.

Every year, hundreds of Haitians set off in rickety boats, fleeing economic and civil disorder in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation in hopes of finding a better life by sneaking into the United States or Caribbean islands such as the Turks and Caicos.

The capsized boat departed Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti on Wednesday and was headed toward the Turks and Caicos, although it was unclear whether that was the migrants' final destination or merely a stop.

So far this year the U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted 909 Haitians, compared to 769 during all of 2006 and 1,828 in 2005. During turbulent 2004, 3,078 were interdicted.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

EDITOR's NOTE: A tragedy, according to the writings of Aristotle.

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