More than 40 migrants were found dead in an abandoned truck outside the city of San Antonio, Texas, in the United States, early yesterday evening. The vehicle was next to a railroad track, in a remote area on the outskirts of the city.
The death toll released yesterday was 46. However, this morning, the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, reported that, in all, 50 people died, adding four new deaths of people rescued at the scene.
According to the American website NBC News, 16 people were hospitalized for heat stroke and exhaustion. Among them were four children.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus described the case as the “deadliest human smuggling incident in town”.
It is not yet known how people got there and what caused their death, but three people have already been detained as part of the investigation into the case. See what is known so far.
The discovery of the truck took place yesterday afternoon. The vehicle was found on a road near I-35, a route that crosses the United States from north to south, from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.
A person working in the area reported hearing a cry for help and seeing at least one body. The authorities were called aroundat 5:50 pm local time.
The truck was found with the doors partially open. The teams found that the vehicle had no air conditioning and no drinking water.
The city where he was located, San Antonio, is about 250 km from the border between Mexico and the United States. On the day of the incident, the temperature recorded was 39.5ºC, a high resulting from the recent heat wave that affected the American country.
Fire chief Charles Hood said the nearly 60 workers who were sent to the scene should receive psychological support after the incident. “We’re not prepared to open up a truck and see several bodies there,” he explained.
According to the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the incident has so far resulted in 50 deaths. Previously, the American press reported that they had been accounted for.
Also according to Obrador, among the dead, 22 were Mexicans, seven from Guatemala and two from Honduras. The other 19 victims have not yet had their nationality revealed.
There is no record of children among the dead and theExactly what caused the mass death is not yet known, although heat is suspected to have played a role.
Authorities also reported that 16 people survived, including 4 children. The group was taken to the hospital. So far, two of them are known to be from Guatemala, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Marcelo Ebrard.
After the episode, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that “Human traffickers are callous individuals who do not respect vulnerable people who exploit and put them at risk for profit”.
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott blamed US President Joe Biden for the deaths, describing them as “the result of his lethal open-border policies”.
Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate running against Abbott, called for urgent measures to “dismantle human smuggling networks and replace them with expanded avenues for legal migration.”
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, said he had “feared” that such a tragedy would have occurred for months. “With the border so closed to migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people were pushed along increasingly dangerous routes,” he said.
“Truck smuggling is very dangerous. There is the possibility that it can go terribly wrong. And when its practice increases, the possibility of mass death incidents also increases.”
The director also cited the case of July 2017, when 10 migrants were found dead in a truck in a parking lot in the same city, San Antonio.
“This incident is the worst in the US since 10 people died in a truck in 2017,” he said. At the time, dozens of people were hospitalized for heat stroke and dehydration, although the truck is believed to have carried up to 200 people – most fled when the vehicle stopped in a parking lot.
In May, a record 239,000 undocumented immigrants were detained entering the country from Mexico.
Arrest of three suspects
After the incident, three people were detained. Their relationship to the case is still unknown and their identities have not been released.
The investigation was passed on to the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), which announced in a statement the initiation of action against “an alleged human trafficking.”