No fewer than 46 persons have been confirmed dead after they were discovered in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer in San Antonio on Monday, in what seems to be a human smuggling incident.
Washington Post reports that another 16 persons were rescued alive but have been taken to the hospital for treatment according to the San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood.
The victims had reportedly suffered from extreme heat and dehydration. According to Hood, the bodies removed from the truck “were hot to the touch.”
“There were no signs of water in the vehicle, and no visible working AC unit on that rig,” he said.
The nationality of the victims was however not disclosed and three people have been taken into police custody, authorities said.
Authorities noted that the investigations will be handled by Homeland Security Investigations, a branch of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that specializes in human trafficking cases.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, “This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” as he described the migrants as people “who had families, who were likely trying to find a better life.”
The incident comes amid a record influx of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, where authorities are on pace to record more than 2 million arrests during fiscal 2022.
Smuggling organisations working inside the United States sometimes pack migrants into trucks and cargo trailers after they have already crossed the border, to sneak them past highway checkpoints operated by the U.S. Border Patrol.
In recent years, there have been several deadly human trafficking incidents on U.S. soil — but the death toll in Monday’s tragedy surpassed those events.
The location is close to Interstate 35, a major transit route for traffic and commerce from the border. Police said the truck full of people was discovered around 6pm local time.
Texas Republican Governor, Greg Abbott blamed the incident on the president as he tweeted, “these deaths are on Biden” saying it was a “result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”