Trinidad Coast Guard searching for missing Venezuelans

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Trinidad Coast Guard searching for missing Venezuelans
Ander Charles, the Mayor of the Valdez Municipality of the Sucre State in Venezuela, speaks to Guiria residents who were hoping for news of their loved ones who were involved in a boating accident yesterday. © Twitter
Ander Charles, the Mayor of the Valdez Municipality of the Sucre State in Venezuela, speaks to Guiria residents who were hoping for news of their loved ones who were involved in a boating accident yesterday. © Twitter

(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.

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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