By Judith Gicobi
A tractor-trailer containing at least 50 bodies has been discovered in San Antonio, Texas, in what looks to be an attempt at human smuggling along the border between the United States and Mexico.
At least 22 Mexicans, seven Guatemalans, and two Hondurans were among the deceased, according to Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, who made the announcement on Tuesday.
16 persons found in the trailer on Monday were taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion and stroke, according to previous statements by San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood. Four of them were minors.
“The patients we saw were hot to the touch. They were suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion. There were no signs of water in the vehicle,” he said.
“It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer, but there was no visible air conditioning unit on that rig.”
A city employee on the scene was made aware of the situation by a plea for help just before 6 o’clock on Monday, according to Police Chief William McManus (23:00 GMT). When the police came, they discovered a body outside the trailer and a gate that was only half open.
In a secluded area on the southern outskirts of the city, the vehicle was discovered adjacent to railroad tracks. McManus stated that three people were detained in connection with the occurrence.
The suffocation of the refugees and migrants was earlier described by Ebrard as a “tragedy in Texas,” and he added that the local consulate was en route to the location.
US President Joe Biden described the fatalities as “horrifying and heartbreaking”.
The inquiry was being handled by the Department of Homeland Security, and “initial reports are that this tragedy was caused by smugglers or human traffickers who have no regard for the lives they endanger and exploit to make a profit,” he issued a statement shortly after arriving in Spain for the second stop of a trip through Europe.
“Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy,” Biden said, pledging his government would continue to do “everything possible” to halt smugglers and trafficking.
Since Biden took office as president, the number of people attempting to breach the US-Mexico border has drastically grown.
The catastrophe on Monday may rank among the deadliest cases of human smuggling along the US-Mexico border in recent past decades.