Trinidad coast guard searching for 25 Venezuelans after boat sinks

(Trinidad Guardian) T&T Coast Guard of­fi­cers and fish­er­men were up to late yes­ter­day as­sist­ing their Venezue­lan coun­ter­parts in a mas­sive search and res­cue mis­sion for 25 Venezue­lan mi­grants who re­mained miss­ing af­ter their boat sank on the way to Trinidad and To­ba­go on Tues­day night.

A re­lease is­sued by the T&T Coast Guard around 6 pm yes­ter­day said their Venezue­lan coun­ter­parts were able to res­cue nine of the vic­tims be­tween Wednes­day night and yes­ter­day evening. How­ev­er, some Venezue­lan news sources re­port­ed that 11 peo­ple had in fact been res­cue up to late yes­ter­day.

Five of the res­cued Venezue­lans were re­port­ed­ly found 55 kilo­me­tres north of where their ves­sel orig­i­nal­ly sank just off Patos Is­land.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, the ves­sel Jhon­naly Jose, left the Port of La Sali­na in the Valdez Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ty of the Su­cre State on Tues­day night to make a three-hour jour­ney to the west­ern coast of Ch­aguara­mas, Trinidad.

The ship, which was re­port­ed­ly over­loaded, be­gan ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in the no­to­ri­ous­ly chop­py wa­ters off the east coast of Patos Is­land— an un­in­hab­it­ed Venezue­lan ter­ri­to­ry lo­cat­ed five kilo­me­tres from the South Amer­i­can main­land and 10 kilo­me­tres west-south-west of Cha­cachacare Is­land, Trinidad. It even­tu­al­ly sank.

As news of the tragedy be­gan to spread via so­cial me­dia on Wednes­day evening, there were nu­mer­ous con­flict­ing re­ports from lo­cal and Venezue­lan of­fi­cials and me­dia per­son­nel on how many peo­ple were on board the boat, how many were even­tu­al­ly res­cued in the op­er­a­tion and whether any of the oc­cu­pants drowned while await­ing as­sis­tance.

Ander Charles, the Mayor of the Valdez Municipality of the Sucre State in Venezuela

The T&T Coast Guard re­lease stat­ed that the ves­sel was sched­uled to trans­port 25 peo­ple to west Trinidad but con­tained nine ad­di­tion­al pas­sen­gers who were not list­ed on the ves­sel’s ap­proved crew and pas­sen­ger list. Most of the pas­sen­gers were re­port­ed­ly women.

A press re­lease is­sued by act­ing Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Ed­mund Dil­lon yes­ter­day evening es­sen­tial­ly re­it­er­at­ed the po­si­tion pre­vi­ous­ly stat­ed by the Coast Guard.

“While the last known po­si­tion of the ves­sel was east of Patos Is­land, lo­cat­ed with­in the Mar­itime Res­cue Co-or­di­na­tion Cen­tre of Venezuela, Min­is­ter Dil­lon has giv­en the as­sur­ance that the T&T Coast Guard will work close­ly with its Venezue­lan coun­ter­part to as­sist with the search and res­cue op­er­a­tion, in ac­cor­dance with the Coast Guard’s roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with re­gard to the In­ter­na­tion­al Con­ven­tion for the Safe­ty of Life at Sea and the In­ter­na­tion­al Con­ven­tion on Mar­itime Search and Res­cue,” the re­lease stat­ed.

For most of yes­ter­day, Venezue­lan of­fi­cials from the state where the ves­sel orig­i­nat­ed, took to so­cial me­dia to give up­dates on search and res­cue mis­sion.

An­der Charles, the May­or of Valdez Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ty of the Su­cre State, used Twit­ter to post pho­tographs of him­self and the State’s Gov­er­nor Ed­win Ro­jas meet­ing with fish­er­men who were about to em­bark on the res­cue mis­sion.

Venezue­lan Na­tion­al As­sem­bly mem­ber Car­los Valero post­ed the names of the miss­ing peo­ple on his Twit­ter ac­count. The list was up­dat­ed through­out the day as in­for­ma­tion trick­led in.

Venezue­lan jour­nal­ist Nay­ro­bis Ro­driguez post­ed live up­dates on the res­cue on her Twit­ter ac­count and claimed the nine res­cued peo­ple were tak­en to a hos­pi­tal in Guiria for treat­ment by 3.30 pm yes­ter­day.

Re­ports pub­lished by Noticiero Dig­i­tal said the res­cue mis­sion, which be­gan on Wednes­day, was ham­pered by the lim­it­ed re­sources of the Venezue­lan Na­tion­al Guard and a mas­sive pow­er out­age in Guiria.

The in­ci­dent was not the first in­volv­ing Venezue­lans flee­ing their coun­try’s on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic tur­moil.

On Jan­u­ary 11, a ves­sel car­ry­ing 28 Venezue­lans re­port­ed­ly sank while on its way to Cu­ra­cao. Four peo­ple drowned and washed ashore, while 24 were not im­me­di­ate­ly found.

In an in­ter­view on CNC3 News last night, pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer of lo­cal NGO TTV Sol­i­dar­i­ty Net­work, Hei­di Diquez, stat­ed that the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies were still pray­ing that their rel­a­tives would be res­cued.

“This was just a tragedy for those who last night host­ed a vig­il at the port and were pray­ing for their fam­i­lies to be found alive,” she said.

Diquez al­so sug­gest­ed that some of the vic­tims may have vis­it­ed Trinidad pre­vi­ous­ly to ap­ply for asy­lum through the Unit­ed Na­tions and were trav­el­ling to and from the coun­tries to vis­it rel­a­tives and car­ry sup­plies. She al­so ex­pressed fear that sim­i­lar ac­ci­dents may oc­cur as more mi­grants seek to flee the coun­try.

“We do think there is go­ing to be an es­ca­la­tion to the sit­u­a­tion in Venezuela is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing each and every day,” Diquez said.




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