PANAMA (AP) — Most of the passengers traveling on the bus that fell down a slope, leaving at least 39 dead, were migrants from Ecuador, Haiti and Venezuela, Panamanian authorities reported Thursday.
In the first official report on the nationalities of the 66 migrants who were traveling on the damaged bus, the Panamanian presidency reported that there were 22 Ecuadorians, 16 Haitians, 11 Venezuelans, six Brazilians, five Colombians and two Cubans. He also said that four Africans were traveling, two from Cameroon, one Nigerian and one from Eritrea.RELATED
He also specified that 42 were men and 24 were women. Among them, there were 20 minors.
In addition to the 66 migrants, two Panamanians were traveling on the bus: the driver -who died on the spot- and an assistant who was injured. Among the injured, there are two other Panamanians who were in another parked vehicle that was hit by the bus when it rolled down the slope.
The Panamanian authorities have not yet identified the victims or the injured, who were all hospitalized.
Earlier, the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences said that it will require information from the migrants’ countries of origin to obtain their fingerprint and/or dental records, as well as samples from relatives to carry out genetic comparisons for the identification of the bodies.
The work to identify the victims and to establish the causes of death is being carried out in the judicial morgue in the province of Chiriquí, on the border with Costa Rica, where the accident occurred the day before.
“This process will take time. Meanwhile, the corpses will be preserved with the due dignity established by international standards,” the Institute said in a statement.
The accident occurred on Wednesday in the Panamanian town of Gualaca, in the western part of the country, when the bus in which the migrants were traveling to a shelter on their way to the United States fell onto the slope. It is the worst road mishap since the Central American country authorized the transfer by bus of migrants crossing the dangerous Darien jungle, on the border with Colombia, to a camp on the border with Costa Rica so that they can continue their route to North America.
The mishap took place after a record number of irregular migratory flow was established last year through the Darién jungle and other points in that province, with the passage of almost 250,000 foreigners, mostly Venezuelans and Ecuadorians. So far in 2023, more than 37,000 have already crossed, including Haitian, Cuban, African and Asian migrants, according to authorities.
The damaged bus was one of those authorized by the authorities to transport migrants to the Los Planes shelter on a daily basis, from where they continue their route north across the border with Costa Rica. Migrants pay a transfer ticket on these buses.
In the middle of last year, some buses with migrants were damaged when they were attacked by people who were blocking the international Pan-American highway during anti-government protests, with no injuries reported.
Until now, the reports of migrants who have died in transit through Panama had to do with mishaps that occurred while transiting on foot or in boats through the jungle and rivers of the Darién.
Many of the towns in that province can only be accessed by air and sea, an area that, due to its proximity to Colombia, is designated for drug and human trafficking.