Bahamas seeks to help after fire guts shantytown

Bahamian authorities are working to provide new housing for more than 100 people who were left homeless after a fire wrecked a crowded shantytown filled mostly with Haitian migrants, a top official said Friday.

Only a handful of those who lost their homes on Abaco Island have arrived at shelters set up by the government, Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette said.

He said those who fail to register for aid and housing vouchers with social service workers sent to deal with the homeless from the fire will not receive government assistance. Illegal immigrants who lost their homes in the blaze late Wednesday will not be arrested, Symonette said.

Those affected will not be allowed to rebuild on the property, according to the government.

It is the third major fire at a Haitian shantytown this year, and the government pledged to investigate the newest case as it continues to dismantle at least 35 other shantytowns after complaints from Bahamians about illegal immigrants.

Authorities say they do not know what caused the other fires, including one in early March near the capital of Nassau on New Providence Island that left more than 700 people homeless.