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Eleven bodies found in boat off the coast of Barbados
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Bridgetown Barbados May 01: Police and  forensic experts here were last night trying to determine how 11 people, believed to come from an African country, perished at sea. The badly decomposed bodies were discovered in the cramped cabin of a 20-foot unnamed boat drifting about 70 nautical miles off the Ragged Point, St Philip coastline yesterday (Sunday) morning.

Police and Coast Guard officials were up to late Sunday were unable to verify their origin, but preliminary investigations indicated the deceased, believed to be all men, from western Africa.

Among some of the personal items found on board the floating graveyard were an undisclosed sum of euro currency and a document indicating travel aboard one of Senegal's airlines.

Sources close to the investigations believed the men, who were mostly dressed in shorts and colourful jerseys, might have died from hunger and thirst or exposure to the elements.

Earlier reports had indicated that the men were shot.

Sources also believe the men might have been refugees whose vessel went adrift and were probably exposed to the elements for several days before collapsing and dying of hunger.

The drama surrounding one of Barbados' worst cases of mass casualties began last Saturday morning when a fisherman reported the grim discovery to the Coast Guard.

The HMBS Trident, with a joint team of police forensic and Coast Guard officials, set sail from its Willoughby Fort base around 5 p.m., taking close to 18 hours to tow the vessel and its dead crew to land.

"On board the Trident was a forensic team from the Police Force and a medical practitioner. Once the vessel was located, we brought her into Carlisle Bay and handed over to the HMBS Endeavour which subsequently towed the boat to Willoughby Fort," Coast Guard spokesman, Captain Sam Cumberbtach, told a press briefing yesterday.

Sources indicated that because of the stench and "mummified" composition of the bodies, it was difficult to assess their ages.

Officials from the Port Health Department cleared the boat for any possible communicable diseases before forensic officers were allowed to investigate and remove the bodies, which were tagged and bagged for removal by workers from Two Sons Funeral Home.

Dozens of people gathered on the Wickham-Lewis Boardwalk along the Wharf Road to get a glimpse of the boat and the victims.

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