At least 17 Haitian migrants including an infant died after their boat capsized off the Bahamas, the country’s prime minister said on Sunday.
“Rescue teams recovered 17 bodies from the water; 15 females, 1 male, and 1 infant,” Prime Minister Philip Davis said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Twenty-five others were rescued and "turned over to health officials for monitoring,” he said, adding that it is presumed others are missing and a search operation is continuing.
According to a preliminary investigation, Davis said 60 people were on board the twin-engine speed boat which left a docking facility off Bahamas’ New Providence at around 1 a.m. local time (05:00 GMT) and “capsized in rough seas.”
The statement added that the boat’s final destination is believed to be the US state of Florida.
“A multi-agency investigation is underway to determine the full circumstances surrounding a suspected human smuggling operation which has resulted in the deaths of Haitian migrants,” Davis said. He also “strongly condemned the organization of smuggling operations which risk human life and compromise our national security.”
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry also confirmed the incident on Twitter.
Political turmoil, high food costs, and rising inflation are also aggravating the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, which has been grappling with a continuing escalation of violence since the killing of former President Jovenel Moise on July 7 last year in a night-time raid.