At least 27 people died and nine were missing Wednesday when their fishing boat sank off the Caribbean coast of Honduras, the country’s military said.
Armed forces spokesman Jose Meza said that 55 people survived when the vessel sank off the remote coastal Mosquitia region.
Ninety-one people were aboard the boat, the 70-tonne “Wallie,” when it set sail from Cabo Gracias a Dios — on the country’s easternmost point bordering Nicaragua — after a seasonal ban on lobster fishing was lifted.
The boat sank near Cayo Gorda, a tiny island just northeast of their point of departure. The cause of the disaster was not immediately clear.
Meza added that the bodies and the survivors would be taken to Puerto Lempira, the main city in eastern Honduras.
Hours before the “Wallie” sank, an overloaded fishing boat in the same area went under.
Meza said that 49 people were rescued from that boat, the “Miss Francely,” which had a capacity to carry 31 people.
The head of the Honduran Merchant Marine, Juan Carlos Rivera, told HCH television that reports from the remote region were incomplete, but that experts will begin to look into what happened to prevent such deadly accidents from taking place again.
Rivera said that authorities have suspended navigation permits for up to three years for boats whose owners bring on too many fishermen.
The captain of the vessel sent out the SOS just before dying, local media reported.