Disasters & Accidents

39 Killed as bus carrying migrants crashes in Panama

Panama City, Feb 15 (EFE).- Thirty-nine people were killed and more than 20 others hurt Wednesday when a bus carrying migrants plunged into a ravine in western Panama, authorities said.

The death toll is based on preliminary information from fire rescue, the Public Safety Ministry said in a statement, adding that 66 people were aboard the bus.

The accident occurred during the wee hours as the bus was transporting migrants from temporary reception stations in the Darien region, on Panama’s border with Colombia, to another facility in Chiriqui province, neighboring Costa Rica.

One of the two drivers on the bus was injured, Minister Juan Pino told EFE.

“We will do all of the coordinating, via the foreign ministry, and we as a state will provide all that support to return the bodies to the families,” he said.

“The government of Panama is providing all needed medical attention to the injured,” President Laurentino Cortizo said.

Last year, a record 248,224 undocumented migrants undertook the difficult passage through the Darien jungle into Panama with hopes of reaching the United States.

Panamanian authorities take the migrants’ biometric data and provide them with food and medical care before bussing them to the Costa Rican border so they can continue their journey.

Though officials in Panama offered no information on the identities of the passengers, Ecuadorian diplomats said that 22 of their citizens were on the bus.

The staff at Ecuador’s embassy in Panama City said on Twitter that they were “in direct contact with immigration authorities to learn the health status of 22 compatriots.”

“This tragedy shakes us and alerts us to the dangers of irregular migration, which carries series risks to life and human dignity,” the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Havana said that an unspecified number of Cuban nationals were among those killed on the bus.

“We convey heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the regrettable accident,” Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted. “Cuba reiterates its permanent commitment to regular, safe and orderly migration.”

More than 313,000 Cubans – nearly 3 percent of the island’s population – entered the US in 2022.

Early indications, according to Panamanian authorities, are that the bus collided with another vehicle before running off the road and crashing into the ravine. EFE gf-sm-jce/dr

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