A catamaran carrying 98 tourists and 10 crew members sank off Costa Rica on Thursday, leaving at least three people dead and two missing while rescuers saved dozens from the sea. One of the dead was a 70-year-old American woman and the other an 80-year-old British man, officials said. The third victim was not immediately identified.

Rescuers plucked 101 people from the Pacific waters but authorities were still looking for two people, said the deputy minister for public security, Maria Fullmen. Officials had previously reported four deaths but revised the toll to three.

Survivors told local media the catamaran capsized due to powerful winds and that the ship rapidly sank.
The catamaran had sailed off from Los Suenos on the Pacific coast and was heading to Tortuga (Turtle) Island when the shipwreck happened some 15 kilometers (nine miles) offshore.

“The wind tipped the boat and water began to come in. People moved to the other side to balance the weight, but it didn’t work and the boat sank in minutes,” said US tourist Arcelio Garcia. Stella Hopkins, an Argentine and the wife of the British victim, said she had thought that the boat would turn around because the sea was choppy, but the crew decided to continue the cruise. “They didn’t give us life jackets until the boat was about to sink,” she said.

Hopkins lost sight of her husband until she was taken to a boat, where his lifeless body was lying. Another woman described the “horrible experience.” “We were floating in the ocean. Many people were crying, screaming, asking for help,” the unidentified woman told local television.

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The transport ministry said the catamaran, owned by the company Pura Vida Princess, was a 2007 model and was authorized to carry 120 passengers and 10 crew members. The ship appeared to have enough lifeboats and life jackets, according to the ministry statement. Costa Rica has been hit by powerful winds that have produced huge waves, while tearing down trees and billboards inland.

Source: AFP

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