In this handout image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, approximately 100 Haitians sit on the hull of a 40-foot sail freighter after it grounded and capsized and await rescue Nov. 26, 2013.
(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images)
At least 30 Haitian migrants died and 110 were rescued in the Bahamas after their overloaded sloop ran aground and capsized Monday night, U.S. and Bahamian authorities said Tuesday.
Survivors clung to the hull of the 40-foot sailboat or treaded water for hours before being spotted by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter near Harvey Cay, in the Exuma chain of islands, about 250 miles southeast of Miami. The Haitians had been at sea about nine days, several with no food or water.
Forecasters had warned of gale-force winds and swells topping 12 feet. The boat was not carrying life jackets.
"Right now we are just trying to recover as many bodies as we possibly can," Lt. Origin Deleveaux, a Royal Bahamas Defense Force spokesman, told the Associated Press. At least 19 women were saved; no children were aboard.
Bahamian authorities had accounted for 110 survivors by Tuesday afternoon, Elcott Coleby, a government spokesman, told the the Miami Herald.
Fishermen alerted the Bahamas military, which asked the Coast Guard for help. U.S. and Bahamian responders dropped supplies and life rafts.
"This is just another example that highlights the dangers of illegal migration and taking to the sea," U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Gabe Somma toldThe New York Times. "The sea is unforgiving. These are dangerous vessels. They are unbalanced, overloaded, and they are not stable."
It's the second time in a month that Haitians seeking a new life have lost their lives. In October, four Haitian women died when their boat capsized about 25 miles off Miami Beach. U.S. authorities charged the captain and one crew member.
It was not immediately known whether the migrants were headed to the Bahamas or South Florida.
So far this year, about 1,550 Haitian migrants have been intercepted or rescued in the Bahamas, more than in 2012, the Miami Herald notes.
Migrants have also died near the Turks and Caicos Islands, between Haiti and the Bahamas, and in the rough Mona Passage separating the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
"Unfortunately we see these types of tragedies occur on a monthly basis," said U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss. "Every year we see hundreds of migrants needlessly lose their lives at sea taking part in these dangerous and illegal voyages."
Contributing: Associated Press