PANAMA CITY (AP) — Three migrants drowned while crossing into Panama from Colombia, authorities said Tuesday.
The dead included a 16-year-old Venezuelan woman, and two men, one from Colombia and one from Venezuela.
Panama’s National Immigration Service said the migrants were apparently carried away by the strong currents of the Rio Armila, just a few miles (kilometers) from the border with Colombia.
The accident occurred in an area near where the river runs into the sea, and where migrant smugglers frequently allow migrants to rest before continuing their journey. The three may have been taking a swim in the river to cool off.
Local residents and other migrants later recovered the bodies.
Hundreds of migrants are believed to have died making the overland crossing between the two countries through the Darien Gap, a roadless jungle area where thieves, swollen rivers, rough terrain and wild animals are frequent.
In June, Juan Manuel Pino, Panama’s security minister said the number of migrants crossing the Darien Gap has grown substantially.
In the first half of the year, 46,415 migrants were found crossing, compared to 26,216 detected in the same period of 2021.
That year, a total of 133,000 migrants passed through Panama, suggesting that this year’s total will be even higher. The majority of the migrants in 2021 were from Haiti, while authorities estimate the largest group this year are Venezuelans.