CARACAS (Reuters) – Eleven people believed to have traveled from Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago were found dead in waters near the South American nation’s coast, Trinidad and Tobago’s coast guard said on Sunday.
At least 40,000 Venezuelans live in Trinidad and Tobago, the majority fleeing the South American country’s economic crisis, unemployment and lack of basic public services, often traveling in small rickety boats above their capacity with limited supplies of fuel and food.
Last year at least two ships that set off from Venezuela en route to the archipelago disappeared at sea.
The bodies were found Saturday near the Venezuelan coastal town of Guiria, Trinidad’s Coast Guard said in a press release, citing information provided by Venezuela.
The statement added that preliminary information suggests the 11 bodies found could be related to a boat that left the town of Guiria, in the northeast of Sucre state, on Dec. 6 with more than 20 people on board, who have not been seen or heard from since.
Omalirves, who did not provide her last name, had warned her friend Noebis Aspudillo, 27, who had been a passenger on the boat about the precarious journey. Aspudillo has gotten increasingly desperate during the pandemic, Omalirves said, after she had gotten laid off from the bread shop she had been working at and her mother’s heart condition got increasingly severe.
Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment nor did the country’s prosecutor’s office.
The coast guard said that in the last week it had not intercepted any vessels leaving from Guiria and that authorities are working together with the South American country in a joint search effort.
Reporting by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Lisa Shumaker