PANAMA CITY — At least 39 migrants were killed and about 20 injured Wednesday morning when the bus they were riding tumbled off a cliff in western Panama, authorities said.
Officials did not immediately report nationalities, but the migrants had crossed the treacherous Darien Gap from Colombia. The Panamanian government typically moves migrants who have crossed the Darien to a camp near the border with Costa Rica on the other side of Panama.
Samira Gozaine, director of Panama’s National Immigration Service, said it appeared the bus driver had passed the entrance of a shelter and when he tried to turn around to get back on the highway, the bus collided with another bus and went off the cliff.
The bus transported 66 migrants to the reception centre.
It was Panama’s worst migrant accident in at least a decade. The flow of migrants through Panama has surged in recent years as they risked the more dangerous crossing as they tried to make their way north to the United States.
Last year, nearly 250,000 migrants crossed Darien’s jungle — most of them Venezuelans — a record number that was nearly double the previous year. More than 24,000 migrants, mostly Haitians and Ecuadoreans, crossed into Darien in January, according to Panamanian authorities.