New discoveries raise Dominican migrant toll to 41

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By EZEQUIEL ABIU LOPEZ, Associated Press

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Authorities in the Dominican Republic have recovered 20 more bodies of migrants who were aboard a boat that capsized, raising the death toll to 41, officials said Wednesday.

The bodies were found late Tuesday and early Wednesday, said Luis Castro, intelligence director of the Dominican Republic's navy. He said crews expected to find more bodies.

Seventy people were aboard the 38-foot vessel when it sank early Saturday.

The new discoveries scuttled hopes that more people had survived the accident and gone into hiding.

"You don't have to look for them anymore. The bodies float up by themselves and can be seen from far away," said Samuel Hernandez, leader of a small group of volunteers from Sabana del Mar, a coastal town northeast of Santo Domingo where rescue efforts are being coordinated.

Crews rescued 13 people after the accident, among them David Cepeda Calcano, one of the trip's purported organizers. Castro said Cepeda could face charges once he is released from the hospital where he is being treated for severe burns.

Survivors have told authorities that they swam as many as seven hours under a brutal sun until they were rescued at sea or reached shore on their own power.

The overloaded boat capsized shortly after departing the Dominican Republic for Puerto Rico, creating one of the Caribbean country's worst accidents of recent years.

In July 2004, some 80 migrants died after their boat capsized, and 50 were declared missing in February 2010 after their boat disappeared.

Thousands of poor Dominican migrants, along with many Haitian and Cuban migrants, try to cross the treacherous 160-mile (260-kilometer) Mona Passage to reach Puerto Rico.

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