Fifty undocumented migrants died after the semi truck they were smuggled into was abandoned outside of San Antonio, Texas on Monday. Here’s what we know about the tragedy:
– Who were the migrants? –
Officials at the scene initially put the toll at 46 and said 16 people, 12 adults and four children, were hospitalized. The toll was later increased to 50, and several had died in hospital, according to media reports.
US officials did not provide a breakdown by age, sex or nationality of the dead. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said 22 were from Mexico, seven from Guatemala and two from Honduras. Lopez Obrador said he had no information on the nationalities of the others.
It is unclear if there were other people who escaped from the trailer earlier.
– How were they found? –
The large trailer they were in was parked at the side of a road in a sparsely populated area about 9 miles from downtown San Antonio. It was next to a railroad track and near several auto junkyards and auto parts stores.
It was also not far from Interstate 35, which connects San Antonio to Laredo, a major hub on the Texas-Mexico border 250 kilometers (150 miles) south.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said authorities were first alerted to the trailer by an emergency call around 5:50 p.m. local time (2250 GMT).
He said a worker at a nearby building heard a call for help and left to investigate. The worker found the trailer with the door partially open and looked inside to see a number of bodies.
– How did they die? –
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said the trailer was designed as a cold store but did not have working air conditioning.
Sixteen people, including four children, were taken alive from the trailer, who appeared to be suffering from acute heat exhaustion and dehydration. The maximum temperature in San Antonio on Monday was 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius).
According to Patterson, a manufacturer of trailer refrigeration equipment, temperatures can soar to as much as 150 degrees in hot weather in an unrefrigerated, unventilated trailer.
– Who is behind the tragedy? –
Still unknown. McManus said three people were arrested but added that officers were not sure if they were involved. Border officials say well-organized human smuggling rings run such operations, earning large sums of money from those trying to sneak into the United States.
On June 14, 80 people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were discovered in a tractor-trailer at a highway checkpoint north of Laredo, Texas. Three weeks earlier, agents had intercepted a trailer carrying 48 people near Sierra Blanca, Texas.
President Joe Biden said the incident “underscores the need to go after the multibillion-dollar criminal smuggling industry that preys on migrants and leads to far too many innocent deaths.”