WATCH | About 50 migrants dead in 'horrific' truck tragedy in Texas

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • Thirty one of the migrants are from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras and 19 are still without information about their nationality.
  • Three people are in custody over the incident.
  • Survivors had suffered heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and there were no signs of water in the truck.

US police Tuesday were investigating the grim discovery of about 50 bodies in and around a trailer truck abandoned in sweltering heat near the Texas city of San Antonio, with victims identified as from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

The shocking finding was one of the worst disasters involving migrants in the United States in recent years - and came five years after a similar deadly incident in the same Texas city, a few hours from the Mexican border.

The White House - facing intense pressure over its immigration policies - called the tragedy "absolutely horrific and heart breaking," and said President Joe Biden, flying to a NATO summit in Madrid, has been briefed on the incident.

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood told reporters that at least 46 victims had died and 16 people had been transported to the hospital alive and conscious - 12 adults and four children.

Early Tuesday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the toll had reached 50, mostly from Latin American nations including Mexico.

The Mexican leader said:

It's a tremendous misfortune... so far there are 50 dead: 22 from Mexico, seven from Guatemala, two from Honduras and 19 still without information about their nationality.

US officials said three people were in custody over the incident.

Hood, the fire chief, said survivors had suffered heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and that there were no signs of water in the truck.

"It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer but there was no visible working A/C unit on that rig," Hood said.

- 'Desperation of migrants' -

San Antonio, which lies about 250 kilometers from the border, is a major transit route for people smugglers.

It has also been gripped by a record-breaking heat wave, and temperatures in the area hit 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.5 degrees Celsius) on Monday.

The US Customs and Border Protection agency director, Chris Magnus said he was "horrified" at the deaths near San Antonio.

"This speaks to the desperation of migrants who would put their lives in the hands of callous human smugglers who show no regard for human life," he added on Twitter.

The vehicle was found near Highway I-35, a major US artery that stretches to the Mexican border.

According to San Antonio police chief William McManus, authorities were first alerted by an emergency call at about 17:50 local time.

"A worker who works in one of the buildings up here behind me heard a cry for help," he told reporters.

"(He) came out to investigate, found a trailer with the doors partially open, opened them up to take a look, and found a number of deceased individuals inside."

- Migration politics -

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican who advocates a tough line on immigration, quickly hit out at Biden over the disaster - blaming the Democrat's "deadly open border policies."

"These deaths are on Biden," Abbott tweeted. "They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law."

San Antonio was the site of a similar migrant tragedy in 2017, when 10 people suffocated to death in a sweltering trailer with broken air conditioning and clogged ventilation holes.

The truck driver later pleaded guilty to charges related to the deaths.

In Geneva, the United Nations' human rights office said it was "deeply disturbed" by the incident.

"This is not the first such tragedy, and it illustrates again the critical need for regular safe pathways for migration as well as for accountability for those persons whose conduct has directly led to such loss of life," said spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.

Did you know you can listen to articles? Subscribe to News24 for access to this exciting feature and more. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Eskom has considered continuous load shedding at Stage 2, instead of introducing it when the power system faces a crunch. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'm all for it - we're going to have power cuts regardless, so we might as well have some stability to better plan our lives
45% - 4724 votes
No thanks! I prefer having periods of no load shedding and we cannot normalise this crisis
55% - 5793 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.