SAN ANTONIO — The bodies of at least 46 people believed to be immigrants who crossed into the United States from Mexico were found dead Monday in and around a tractor-trailer that had been abandoned outside San Antonio, state officials said. and municipal. .
At least 16 others, including children, were taken alive to local hospitals but suffered from heat exhaustion and apparent dehydration, city officials said during a news conference at the scene of what appeared to be one of the worst migrant deaths. in the U.S. in recent years.
“The plight of migrants seeking refuge is always a humanitarian crisis,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio told reporters Monday night. “But tonight we are faced with a horrible human tragedy.”
San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus said three people were taken into custody. Earlier that day, officers had been searching for the driver of the vehicle, who appeared to have abandoned the truck at some point before it was discovered in a remote area near railroad tracks and auto scrap yards southwest of downtown. . Chief McManus would not say if the driver was among those arrested.
Texas state officials, already handling record levels of migrant crossings from Mexico, have been bracing for a further surge this spring and summer. All of the victims are believed to have crossed into the United States illegally and been brought north. The closest border crossing is approximately 140 miles away.
The truck was discovered by a worker at a nearby business who “heard a cry for help and went out to investigate,” Chief McManus said, adding that the worker had found the trailer doors partially open and found multiple bodies inside.
Most of the bodies, which included men and women, were found inside the truck around 6:00 pm, although at least one was outside the vehicle. Fire Chief Charles Hood said people who were transported to hospitals were “hot to the touch” and appeared to be suffering from “heat stroke, heat exhaustion”. The truck, although designed to be refrigerated, “did not have a visible working air conditioning unit,” he said.
Authorities did not say how the people died, but suggested extreme heat was a cause. San Antonio and other Texas cities have been experiencing heat in June that is at or near record levels. The temperature on Monday in the city had exceeded 100 degrees.
Ruby Chavez, 53, a housewife who lives about a mile from where the truck was found, heard about the discovery on television and then saw a helicopter flying overhead. She came to the place with her husband, Reuben, to pray.
The area was a place known to locals as a “drop off point” for immigrants, the couple said.
“You can tell they just arrived. We see them with backpacks or begging for food or money,” said Ms. Chavez. “It’s sad. And now I hear there are children.”
Her husband added: “They know this area. They jump off the train and pick them up.”
Dozens of police and firefighters gathered around the scene along Quintana Road where the truck was found, a road sandwiched between train tracks and car wrecks that has a rural feel despite being within city limits. . Several farms are nearby.
San Antonio is a major transit point for migrants heading from Texas to other parts of the United States. Tens of thousands of immigrants have passed through the city in recent months, according to immigrant advocates. Smugglers often transport large numbers of migrants in trailers, pickup trucks, or SUVs after encountering them in remote areas once they have managed to enter the United States.
Edgar Sandoval, miriam jordan Y Elizabeth Fawcett contributed report.