As Darien arrivals grow, Panama moves migrants north

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - As the number of migrants arriving at Panama's southern border by traveling through a perilous jungle area known as the Darien Gap has sharply increased, officials met Thursday to roll out a plan to bus migrants close to the country's northern border.

The decision comes less than a month after dozens were killed in the deadliest migration accident in Panama's history when a bus headed north fell off a cliff.

Now, officials will temporarily provide buses to transport migrants arriving from the Darien Gap to the Chiriqui province, which borders Costa Rica.

According to government, almost 58,000 migrants mostly from Haiti, Venezuela and Ecuador entered Panama in the first two months of the year through the Darien Gap, a lawless stretch of mountainous jungle.

"That is a sharp contrast from the same time last year, when we didn't even have 10,000 people coming into Panama," immigration director Samira Gozaine said.

Officials stressed the measure to transport migrants was temporary and that if the number of those arriving through the Darien Gap continued to increase, resources could become even more strained.

(Reporting by Milagro Vallecillos; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Sandra Maler)