Panama abandons plan to pull up sunken submarine

Panama City, Dec 19 - A cocaine-laden semi-submersible vessel that sank early this month in Panama's Caribbean waters will not be refloated due to the cost and possible risks of the operation, an official said.

Country's chief narcotics prosecutor Javier Caraballo told reporters that the depth of the shipwreck, estimated at more than 600 meters, makes recovery impossible.

"The operation is not only difficult but costly and dangerous in the extreme, so it's not advisable to risk human lives in the recovery of this illegal substance," he said.

Nonetheless, Caraballo said that the case remains under investigation.

The sunken semi-submersible, with an undetermined amount of the drug aboard, was discovered Dec 4 near Panama's maritime boundary with Costa Rica.

Panama's deputy minister of security, Manuel Moreno, confirmed to reporters the next day that two Hondurans and a Colombian had been arrested in the operation, and that about 75 kg were recovered at sea while naval units tried to reach the vessel to search for more of the drug.

Panamanian authorities were notified about the presence of the semi-submersible by their Costa Rican counterparts and the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Costa Rican officials said. (IANS)

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