updated 10/20/2007 12:42:28 AM ET 2007-10-20T04:42:28

The bodies of two dozen people washed ashore Friday in southern Mexico after emergency officials received reports that a boat carrying Central American migrants capsized in the Pacific Ocean, a state official said.

Mexican authorities were searching the waters for more bodies around the coastal town of San Francisco del Mar, 200 miles up the coast from the Guatemalan border.

Sergio Segreste, the Oaxaca state public safety secretary, said 24 bodies washed ashore.

“This morning, we got a report that a vessel carrying undocumented migrants had capsized or gone down,” Segreste said. “The assumption is that the cause of the accident was the rough weather.”

Later Friday, Segreste said authorities had found two bodies in the Oaxacan community of Pueblo Viejo based on information from a woman who said she had survived the wreck. The woman said about 26 passengers had been aboard the boat, Segreste said.

Segreste said the local government in San Francisco del Mar reported that it had found 22 more bodies on the shore. But he added that public safety officers hadn’t been able to access the area because two rivers had flooded there.

An official in San Francisco del Mar’s municipal government office, who declined to give her name because she wasn’t authorized to speak to the press, said the victims were traveling in a small boat that capsized because there were too many passengers aboard.

If confirmed to be migrants, it could be evidence that smugglers are increasingly turning to boats to transport Central Americans through Mexico, avoiding highway checkpoints.

Many illegal migrants have been stranded and looking for other ways north since service was interrupted this year on two railway lines they once used to hitch rides north on freight trains.

In August, thousands of U.S.-bound Central American migrants found themselves stranded near the Guatemala border after Connecticut-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc. withdrew from a 30-year concession to operate the Chiapas-Mayab line. For decades, migrants had relied on the train to carry them from to the U.S./Mexico border.

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