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Message in bottle saves drifting migrants

Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- A desperate message for help stuffed into a bottle helped save 88 South American refugees stranded at sea near Costa Rica, officials said Tuesday.

Abandoned by traffickers aboard a troubled boat, the migrants saw the long lines of a fishing vessel and decided to tie a bottle stuffed with a plea for help to the line.

"It was the women in the group that had the idea," said Interior Ministry spokesman Nicolas Aguilar.

After drawing in the lines, crew members of the ship Rey de Reyes found the bottle and the message: "Help, please, help us."

The ship's captain notified authorities on the Isla de Coco national park. They asked the independent environmental group MarViva to send out a boat to investigate. The group towed the migrants to the island on Sunday.

According to Environment Ministry officials speaking to local broadcasters, the migrants from Peru and Ecuador said that they had paid traffickers as much as $3,000 for the trip from the Ecuadorean port of Montanita and had promised to pay another $7,000 each to complete the journey to the United States.

But the traffickers abandoned the vessel after it began to take on water. The migrants drifted for three days awaiting help.

The ministry's Victor Acuna told local press that the migrants' boat lacked a pumping system to get rid of water filtering through its structure.

The Security Ministry on Monday said 40 Peruvians and 48 Ecuadoreans were aboard the failing boat, which carried no flag, name or registration.

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