At least 46 people, believed to be migrants, were found dead Monday in an abandoned semi-truck in suburban San Antonio, Texas. It could be the deadliest tragedy among migrants trying to cross the US southern border in decades.
Updated yesterday at 10:38pm.
Sixteen other people were still alive and were taken to local hospitals. Four are believed to be children, said San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood. “The patients we saw were hot to the touch, suffering from heat exhaustion, heat exhaustion, we didn’t find any trace of water in the vehicle,” he said.
The fire chief said he was confident the victims who were taken to the hospital would survive. Several Texas cities hit record heat in June. On Monday, the temperature in San Antonio exceeded 37℃.
Police Chief William McManus said a city worker at the scene was alerted to a call for help just before 6 p.m. Monday. When they arrived at the scene, police reportedly found a body on the ground outside the trailer. Three people were arrested during the evening.
The tragedy happened in the suburbs of San Antonio, a major city 150 miles from the border with Mexico. Footage circulating on social media showed numerous police and emergency vehicles at the scene.
The people in the trailer were part of an alleged attempt to smuggle migrants into the United States.
The truck is a mode of transportation commonly used by migrants wishing to enter the United States. Such a ride is extremely dangerous as these vehicles are rarely air-conditioned and their occupants quickly run out of water.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 557 deaths at the Southwest border between September 2020 and September 2021, more than double the year-ago figure. Most are due to exposure to heat.
A ‘terrible human tragedy’
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the 46 fatalities had “families who were probably trying to find a better life.” “We are facing a terrible human tragedy,” he said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Republican, blamed Democratic President Joe Biden. “They are the result of his open borders policy. They show the deadly consequences of his failure to comply with the law,” he wrote on Twitter.
Arrivals of illegal immigrants increased sharply after Joe Biden’s election, although he has been trying to stem the flow of migrants since arriving in the White House.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director of the American Immigration Council, wrote that he had feared such a tragedy for months. “With the border closed as tightly as it is today to migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been pushed down increasingly dangerous routes. Truck smuggling is increasing,” he wrote on Twitter.
“They hoped for a better life. Lord, to Uvalde and now this, help us! We need them ! So many people are suffering. God, God, God,” said the Archbishop of San Antonio, Gustavo García-Siller.
“Once again, the lack of courage to confront immigration reform kills and destroys. We don’t study,” he added.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard deplored a “tragedy” on Twitter, stating that although we don’t know the “nationalities” of the victims, the Mexican consul went there.
In 2017, a similar tragedy had swamped sentiment: 10 migrants had died in an overheated trailer parked in a parking lot near San Antonio. Also in 2003, 19 migrants were found in a truck southeast of San Antonio.
With Agence France-Presse and Associated Press