At least 20 Haitian migrants dead after packed boat capsizes

At least 20 people are dead and dozens are still missing Friday after a boat loaded with Haitian migrants capsized in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the Bahamas.

At least 20 bodieshave been recovered, some partially eaten by sharks, and 58 people remain missing aftera boat loaded with Haitian migrants capsizedFridayin the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the Bahamas.

Survivors told police there had been about 150 people aboard the seven-metre boat when it capsized early Friday, about a kilometre south of Providenciales Island, part of the Turks and Caicos, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Officials said 63 of them were rescued almost immediately after their boat overturned.

A police boat, guided by a coast guard helicopter, also later rescued 10 people who were found clinging to the hull of the capsized vessel.

"Right now, we've rescued 73, and there are 20 dead," U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Barry Bena told CBC News Friday.

AC-130 aircraft has been deployed from Clearwater, Fla., and a cutter toassist in the search. Seas are calm and ideal to conduct a search,Bena said: "We believe we can find more."

Earlier reports by the coast guard said the boat capsized while being towed to safetyby a Turks and Caicospolice boat, but local authorities denied that.

Perilous crossing

An Associated Press reporter saw about 12 bodies that had been pulled from the water and brought to South Dock, on Providenciales, about200 kilometres north of Haiti. Some of the corpses reportedly had limbs chewed off.

Each year, hundreds of Haitians attempt the perilous water crossing in rickety boats to gain access to a better life in the United States. But unlike their Cuban counterparts, the Haitians are not eligible for the so-called wet foot/dry foot rule, which grants legal status to Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil.

Since January, 909 Haitians have been intercepted, including 195in May, the coast guard said.

With files from the Associated Press