August 17, 2005

More than 100 Ecuadorean emigrants feared drowned

BOGOTA/QUITO, Colombia (Reuters) - More than 100
Ecuadoreans were missing and feared drowned after an
overcrowded boat they hoped would carry them toward new lives
in the United States sank in the Pacific Ocean last Friday,
authorities said on Wednesday.

The boat carrying 113 people -- mainly Ecuadoreans who
hoped to illegally enter the United States -- sank on Friday in
Colombian waters after sailing from the port of Manta without
authorization on Thursday, an Ecuadorean Navy spokesman said.

Colombia's Navy only launched a search and rescue operation
to look for bodies after the incident was reported late on

The boat had capacity for 15 people, the Colombian Navy
said in a news release, in which it said it believed 120 people
had been aboard.

A fishing boat saved seven men and two women after it sank
140 miles, from Colombia's Malpelo Island, the Colombian Navy

About 500,000 Ecuadoreans -- about one in 25 of the total
population -- have left their politically unstable country
since an economic crisis in 1999, mainly seeking new lives in
the United States and Spain.

Many of them pay people smugglers to take them to Central
America, then Mexico, and then across the U.S. land border.