A boat carrying Haitian migrants apparently capsized off the Bahamas early Sunday, and Bahamian security forces recovered the bodies of 17 people and rescued 25 others, authorities said.
It was unclear if there were any people missing after the boat sank about seven miles from New Providence.
Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said in a statement that the dead included 15 women, a man and a baby. He said those rescued were taken in for observation by health workers.
Davis said investigators determined a twin-engine speedboat left the Bahamas around 1 a.m. carrying up to 60 people, apparently bound for Miami.
Davis said a criminal investigation has been opened into the alleged human trafficking operation.
“I would like to convey the condolences of my government and the people of the Bahamas to the families of those who lost their lives in this tragedy,” Davis said. “My government, since taking office, has warned against such treacherous journeys.”
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he sympathized with the relatives of the victims.
“This new drama saddens the whole nation,” he said. “I launch, once again, an appeal for national reconciliation in order to solve the problems which keep our brothers, our sisters, our children far from our soil.
A year after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse last July, gang violence has escalated and Haiti has entered a free fall that has seen the economy collapse. Attempts to form a coalition government have failed and efforts to hold general elections have stalled. The unrest has led growing numbers of people to flee the country of more than 11 million people in search of a better and safer life.
Several shipwrecks involving migrants have taken place in the Caribbean this year, including one in May in which 11 people were confirmed dead and 38 were rescued off Puerto Rico. Another incident in January saw a man rescued and another confirmed dead after a boat carrying 40 migrants sank off Florida, with the missing never found.
Governments in the region, including the United States, have reported an increase in the number of detained Haitians trying to enter other countries.
Correction: This story has been corrected to clarify that the dead included 15 females and one male, NOT 15 males and one female