The Panamanian authorities raised the death toll to 40, including children, in the accident of a bus that was carrying irregular migrants to a shelter near the border with Costa Rica on Wednesday.
In the accident, which occurred around 04:00 local time (09:00 GMT) in Gualaca, an area in the western province of Chiriquí located about 450 kilometers from the Panamanian capital, more than 20 people were injured, according to the authorities.
A source from the Public Ministry (MP, Prosecutor's Office) told EFE that one of the injured died while being treated at a hospital, raising the number of fatalities in the accident to 40.
Among the injured are a dozen children between the ages of 5 and 11, three of whom were in critical condition at the children's hospital in the city of David, capital of Chiriquí, according to the institution's medical director, Johny Parra.
Unicef's emergency protection specialist, Diana Romero, told EFE that the UN entity "deeply regretted" this accident "involving several boys and girls that we were caring for just a few hours ago in Darién," the Panamanian border province with Colombia through which thousands of irregular migrants from all over the world who travel to the United States arrive.
At another hospital in the city of David there were 23 injured, a dozen of whom were in serious condition in intensive care units, medical sources said.
The Panamanian authorities have not publicly reported the age or nationality of the deceased, who are presumed to be mostly migrants in transit to North America.
The deputy director of the National Migration Service (SNM), María Isabel Saravia, said at a press conference that among the deceased were children - 20 minors were traveling on the bus - as well as a Panamanian citizen who was one of the two drivers.
Saravia specified that "66 non-nationals" from Panama were traveling on the bus. He limited himself to saying that the list included African citizens and South American countries such as Brazil and Ecuador, and that the Foreign Ministry is communicating with the different governments.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry confirmed this Wednesday, without specifying the number, that there are citizens of the island among the dead, while the Colombian government expressed "its deepest condolences to the relatives of the victims, Colombians and from various brother countries."
For its part, the Embassy of Ecuador in Panama said that 22 nationals of that country were traveling on the bus and that it had requested information from the Panamanian authorities about their status.
According to the version available and verified by the authorities, the bus driver passed the entrance to the Gualaca shelter and, when turning around, lost control of the vehicle, collided with at least one fixed object, and plunged down a ravine.
The bus was destroyed, without a roof and with the chairs scattered on the floor. The Panamanian Prosecutor's Office reported that there were dismembered bodies. This is the worst accident of this type registered in Panama in more than 50 years.
Saravia stressed that this "unfortunate" accident has taken place in the context of the regional migration crisis: in 2022 the unprecedented number of 248,284 irregular travelers arrived in Panama after traveling through several South American countries and crossing the Darién jungle, and more than 37,000 in the what's up this year
"It is a constant movement (...) with the operation 'controlled flow', Panama has transferred more than 500,000 people in the context of international mobility, has protected them and provided humanitarian assistance within its possibilities," he added.
Panama receives irregular migrants who cross the jungle at stations where they take their biometric data and offers them health and food assistance, after which they are transferred by buses to the border with Costa Rica to continue on their way.
Activists have denounced the overcrowding in immigration stations, and a recent report by independent experts and UN special rapporteurs spoke of allegations of alleged abuse, including sexual abuse, against migrants by Panamanian officials, which until now the authorities have denied. .
According to the criteria of The Trust Project