Message in a bottle saves 80 migrants adrift off Costa Rica

Adrift and abandoned at sea with their boat's engines no longer working, more than 80 Latin American migrants were saved after resorting to that old fall-back - a message in a bottle.

Adrift and abandoned at sea with their boat's engines no longer working, more than 80 Latin American migrants were saved after resorting to that old fall-back - a message in a bottle.

A total of 46 Ecuadoreans and 40 Peruvians were rescued over the weekend after they popped their written cry for help into a plastic bottle and attached it to one of the drift lines of a fishing vessel. Later that evening the captain of the boat noticed the bottle and contacted rescuers who reached the migrants as their boat was beginning to sink.

"A little bit longer and all would have died," Patricia Alpizar, a spokeswoman for Costa Rica's environment ministry, said.

The migrants had apparently left the Ecuadorean port of Puerto Montañita early last week with the intention of illegally entering the US, possibly through Guatemala. But when their boat developed mechanical troubles, the crew changed over to another ship and abandoned their human cargo to drift without power or communications.

The drifting vessel was spotted by a passing fishing boat, Rey de Reyes, close to Cocos Island, 300 miles south-west of the mainland of Costa Rica.

The fishermen contacted the Costa Rican authorities but the coastguard's boat was reportedly unavailable to put to sea. It was later that evening that the fishing boat's captain noticed the bottle and the migrants' plea for help. Their message read: "Help, please help us."

The migrants, mainly teenagers, were eventually rescued on Sunday morning by MarViva, a group which works to preserve Cocos Island. They were being cared for on the island yesterday while the Costa Rican public security ministry dispatched a boat with a doctor, immigration officials and emergency food supplies.

Francisco Estrada, director of MarViva, said that the crew of the vessel, professional people smugglers, had taken all the communication and navigation equipment when they abandoned the migrants. "Incredibly, it seems that the boat's crew took the equipment and so these people, who had no sailing experience, wrote the message and placed it inside a bottle," he said.

The Costa Rican government says it has contacted the governments of Ecuador and Peru in the hope they will send boats to the island to pick up their nationals. The island is closer to the Ecuadorean Galapagos Island chain than it is to mainland Costa Rica. There are no boats near the island with a capacity to take the migrants to Costa Rica, the authorities said.

Cocos Island is believed to be the world's largest uninhabited island. It has been declared a United Nations world heritage site and is famed for its scientific use in confirming many of Charles Darwin's theories on evolution and species adaptation.

The island was discovered in 1526, and before Costa Rica took control in 1869, Cocos was used by pirates to bury stolen treasure. Legends say much of that treasure is still there.

MarViva was founded by a Swiss donor in 2002 in an effort to prevent poaching on and around Cocos Island. Equipped with three boats, the group has patrolled the waters around the island since July 2003 on behalf of the Costa Rican government. It also patrols the waters around Panama's Coiba Island.

While both countries have pledged to preserve the islands, neither has the funds or resources to do so.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border