SANTO DOMINGO – Two more bodies have been recovered from the boat that capsized off the northeastern Dominican Republic over the weekend while carrying a group of migrants bound for Puerto Rico, emergency management officials said.
The bodies of an unidentified man and woman were taken to the hospital in Sabana de la Mar, a city in the eastern province of Hato Mayor, regional emergency management chief Luis Armando Frias told Efe by telephone.
The search by navy ships, emergency management office personnel, firefighters and the U.S. Coast Guard will continue on Tuesday even though the chances of finding additional survivors are slim, Frias said.
The small boat, which was carrying more than 70 illegal immigrants bound for Puerto Rico, sank early Saturday.
The vessel’s stern began breaking up due to strong waves and the weight of the passengers, causing it to sink off the coast of the northeastern province of Samana and the eastern province of Hato Mayor, survivors said.
Eight survivors have been accounted for, but up to 20 people may have made it ashore alive, officials said.
Some survivors may not have been reported missing by relatives who feared they might be arrested.
The U.S. Coast Guard, however, put the number of survivors at just 11.
People smugglers charged between 30,000 and 40,000 pesos ($770 and $1,025) to get the Dominicans into neighboring Puerto Rico, survivors said.
Thousands of Dominicans try to reach the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico every year, preferring to risk their lives rather than continue living in poverty in their homeland.
Three people were killed and dozens of others disappeared in a shipwreck in December off Matancita beach, located in the northeastern Dominican Republic, while trying to reach Puerto Rico.
About 30 people managed to swim ashore, emergency management officials said.
Many migrants drown each year on the treacherous journey across the 100-kilometer (62-mile) Mona Passage on the rickety wooden boats known as “yolas.” EFE