Trinidad Guardian- The T&T Coast Guard (TTCG) is on standby should they be called for help by the Venezuelan Coast Guard as the search continues for 19 refugees, who have been feared drowned after the pirogue they were in sunk last Thursday.
The lone survivor of the incident, Alberto Abreu, 25, of Margarita, who was rescued by a US businessman Robert Richards, Virgin Islands, is currently in Grenada.
According to a release issued by the TTCG’s Public Affairs Officer, Lieutenant Kerron Valere, on May 17 at 1443 hours (2:43 pm), the TTCG received information from North Post Radio that a civilian vessel retrieved an individual who was in the water in a position approximately 18 miles north of Chacachacare, within T&T’s territorial waters.
The foreign national, it added, indicated that he was on board a vessel with 19 others which departed Margarita Island, Venezuela en route to Trinidad on the previous day.
“Upon receiving this information, the TTCG immediately deployed its maritime assets to aid in the Search and Rescue Operation. The TTCG has been in communication with Venezuelan counterparts in the attempt to discover additional persons with further searches being conducted within the waters of Trinidad and Tobago since the initial discovery,” Valere said.
“Based on the calculated search area, it must be noted that these missing individuals are most likely in Venezuelan waters and therefore will be located within the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre of Venezuela and as such it is their responsibility to investigate and coordinate search and rescue operations within that geographic area,” he added.
The TTCG, however, assured that it will continue to perform its Search and Rescue Operations, due to our diplomatic links with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as well as in accordance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR).
Relatives of the missing refugees who have not been seen since they left Güiria, Venezuela, begged for searches to be launched to find their missing loved ones.
The five Venezuelans told Guardian Media their relatives, including infants and children, were on board the pirogue Ana Maria which left Güiria at about 4 pm last Thursday bound for Chaguaramas.
However, while theTTCG is standing by to help, reports out of Venezuela are that military and civil officials there are yet to launch searches for the missing vessel.
Concerns have been raised by members of the opposition-led National Assembly with one deputy, Robert Alcalá, claiming that Venezuelan authorities have have refused to send air support to search the area where the vessel is believed to have disppeared.
Carlos Valero, another member of the National Assembly, has circulated a list of names which he said were of 22 of the 29 people who were on board the Ana Maria.
He told the El Nacional newspaper: “The ship was wrecked and up to now only one person has been rescued. This is the second boat to sink on that same route in less than a month.”
On Saturday, Robert Richards, a businessman from the US Virgin Islands, said in a post on his Facebook page that Abreu, a passenger from the missing vessel, was rescued after he was found drifting in the sea off Chaguaramas and taken to Grenada.
He wrote: “We found this young man 30 miles offshore of Trinidad in some sporty sea conditions fighting for his life, he had been in the water for 19 hours, while we were bringing our new boats back. He was on a boat that sunk the night before with 20 other people on board, so far no other survivors, they were on their way to Trinidad to buy food because there home of Isla De Margarita, a Venezuela island has limited food that’s very expensive, it’s a very sad thing going on there GOD bless the lost ones!”