Eighty-five people are missing and two bodies found after a boat carrying Haitian migrants capsized and sank off the Turks and Caicos Islands, the US Coast Guard said Tuesday. A survivor said the vessel had been trying to avoid police when it collided into a reef on Monday.
Rescuers found 113 survivors stranded on two reefs, said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Moorlag, a Coast Guard spokesman in Miami.
"Our main goal right now is just to get everybody out of the water and get medical attention for those who need it," said Petty Officer Third Class Sabrina Elgammal, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.
By late evening on Monday, Turks and Caicos authorities using small boats had rescued about 40 people stranded on a reef two miles (three kilometers) southeast of West Caicos island. Many others were later found on a nearby reef, Moorlag said.
The boat carrying up to 200 Haitians had been at sea for three days when passengers saw a police vessel and accidentally steered the boat onto a reef as they tried to hide, survivor Alces Julien told The Associated Press at a hospital were some survivors were receiving treatment.
Elgammal said information from survivors indicates that between 160 and 200 people were on board when the vessel capsized near this island chain north of Haiti and southeast of the Bahamas. She said the cause of the accident is under investigation.
A Coast Guard cutter has been searching through the night for survivors, and Moorlag said a helicopter and a jet will join the search at first light. He said a C-130 aircraft was expected Tuesday morning to help in the search.