Overcrowded boat was found near Caibarien, not far from Cayo Santa Maria, Cuban state media report, adding several days of stormy weather and thunderstorms forced the vessel towards the island nation.

Vast, and often untold, numbers of Haitian migrants have in recent months taken to sea on vessels headed for US to escape gang violence and poverty in their home country
Vast, and often untold, numbers of Haitian migrants have in recent months taken to sea on vessels headed for US to escape gang violence and poverty in their home country (Reuters)

A boat carrying 842 Haitian migrants bound for the United States has strayed off course and washed ashore along the north coast of Cuba instead, according to Cuban state media reports, leaving island authorities scrambling to provide the group with humanitarian aid.

State broadcaster Telecubanacan showed images on Wednesday of a single large grey ship crowded with Haitians lining the decks from bow to stern, and even on the rooftop, as it swayed in rough, windswept seas.

The boat was found early on Tuesday near Caibarien, state-run media reported, not far from Cayo Santa Maria, a popular vacation destination home to a strip of all-inclusive resort hotels. Several days of stormy weather and thunderstorms forced the boat towards Cuba, the report said.

Migration crisis

Vast, and often untold, numbers of Haitian migrants have in recent months taken to sea on vessels headed for the US to escape gang violence and poverty in their home country.

Many stray off course, poorly equipped for the voyage or overwhelmed by weather, and end up landing in the Bahamas, Cuba or elsewhere in the Caribbean Sea.

The Haitian migrants aboard the boat, including more than 150 women and children, were transferred by authorities to a tourist camping area operated by the Cuban government, where they were offered humanitarian aid and medical care, state-run media said.

"Cuban authorities are in contact with the government of Haiti to ensure the safe and voluntary return of these people to their country, in accordance with the international agreements on migration," the report noted.

Cuba is suffering from a migration crisis of its own, ravaged by an economic and social crisis that has led to shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods. Tens of thousands of Cubans have left the island in recent months for the United States.

Source: Reuters