Panama City: At least 33 people died Wednesday when a bus transporting migrants bound for the United States crashed with a minibus in Panama, an official in the Central American country said.
Updating the death toll from 15, Panama’s national director of migration Samira Gozaine told the Telemetro broadcaster: “for now, we have information of 33 people dead.”
President Laurentino Cortizo earlier announced that 15 people had lost their lives in the early-morning crash in Gualaca, Chiriqui.
The bus had 66 occupants including the driver and an assistant when it crashed some 400 kilometers west of the capital Panama City, police transit operations commissioner Emiliano Otero told journalists.
Authorities have yet to report the nationalities of the victims, or the number of people injured. Cortizo said the government was providing medical care for survivors.
Gozaine told AFP by phone there were three critically injured people at the crash site.
Several of the injured were taken by ambulance to a hospital in the Chiriqui provincial capital city David, according to local media.
The bus was transporting migrants from Darien, a jungle area in Panama’s east bordering Colombia, westward toward Costa Rica from where the passengers aimed to continue their journey through Central America and Mexico, and ultimately to the United States.
The number of irregular migrants arriving in Panama en route to the United States nearly doubled in 2022 to a record 248,000, and more than half were Venezuelan, the immigration authority reported on January 1.