PANAMA CITY — At least 33 have died in Panama after a bus carrying more than 60 migrants fell of a cliff early on Wednesday, an official from the country’s migration authority said.
The bus, carrying migrants who had traveled through the Darien Gap, a dangerous stretch of jungle that connects Colombia to Central America, was heading towards a shelter located in the western coastal province of Chiriqui, which borders Costa Rica.
At least half of the 66 passengers in the bus died in the accident near the Gualaca migrant shelter, Panama’s Deputy Director of Migration Maria Isabel Saravia told reporters.
About 20 people were hospitalized with injuries, some of them severely wounded, Panama’s social security authority told Reuters.
Saravia did not provide details on the nationalities of the victims, saying it would first be communicated to relatives and respective embassies.
“The Government extends its condolences to the families of those killed in this accident, and reiterates its commitment to continue providing humanitarian aid and decent conditions to deal with irregular migration,” Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo said on Twitter.
Last year, a record 248,000 migrants crossed the Darien Gap, most of them Venezuelans. A new, stricter U.S. migration policy has resulted in many being returned to Panama, where they often cannot afford transportation back to Venezuela.
Since the beginning of 2023, a further 32,800 have crossed the Darien Gap, Panama’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.