Dominican Republic: Boatpeople Disaster, 47 Deaths

Reuters and Associated Press reported earlier this week that a 38-foot yawl headed for Puerto Rico with over 70 people on board sank off the north-eastern coast of the Dominican Republic. Apparently, the boat’s stern had broken because of strong waves and the weight of the passengers. 18 of the passengers had been rescued but many were still missing.  The numbers of deceased passengers have continued to rise and yesterday, 18 more bodies were found.

Officials described the sinking as the Dominican Republic’s “worst people smuggling tragedy” in recent years. [. . .] Rescuers found 18 more bodies Wednesday, and the number of dead rises to 47 from the makeshift boat that san in Samaná last week, and at least 25 survived, of the 75 boatpeople headed to Puerto Rico illegally.

Several of the survivors had serious burns in different parts of the body, said Samaná Civil Defense director Morayma Ramón. She said of the bodies found near the tourist resort islet Cayo Levantado, five were in the morning and 13 in the afternoon, adding that Civil Defense, the Navy and other agencies the zone continue the search and rescue effort.

The tragedy is among the worst in a long history of illegal crossings to Puerto Rico, for which the country has had to adopt harsh penalties for organizers, up to 30 years in some cases

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