A boat carrying Haitian migrants capsized in the Bahamas early Sunday and Bahamian security forces recovered the bodies of 17 people and rescued 25 others, officials said.
It was not clear whether anyone was 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 an infant. He said the rescued people were taken for monitoring by health workers.
Davis said investigators had determined that a twin-engined speed boat carrying 60 people left the Bahamas at around 1 a.m., apparently bound for Miami.
Davis said a criminal investigation into the suspected human trafficking operation had begun.
“I want to express my condolences on behalf of our government and the people of the Bahamas to the families of those killed in this tragedy,” Davis said. “My government, ever since it came to power, has warned against these treacherous visits.”
Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he sympathized with the parents of the victims.
“This new drama makes the whole country sad,” he said. “I once again begin the appeal for national reconciliation to solve the problems that are taking away from our earth, our brothers, our sisters, our children.”
A year after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Mosse last July, gang violence has worsened and Haiti has gone into a free fall that has seen the economy collapse. Efforts to form a coalition government have faltered and attempts to hold general elections have stalled. The turmoil has prompted more than 11 million people to flee the country in search of a better and safer life.
There have been several drownings in the Caribbean this year involving migrants, including one in May in which 11 people were confirmed dead and 38 were rescued from Puerto Rico. One person was rescued and another confirmed dead in another incident in January, when a boat carrying 40 migrants went down from Florida, while the missing was never found.
Governments in the region, including the United States, have reported an increase in the number of Haitians detained trying to enter other countries.