As 51 people die in hot truck the US has concerns it could be another tragic case of human trafficking.
A criminal investigation into the deaths of at least 51 persons who were locked inside a hot tractor-trailer that was discovered abandoned near San Antonio, Texas, has been launched by American authorities.
One of the deadliest human trafficking catastrophes to occur along the US-Mexico border in recent history was the tragedy.
The driver of the truck and two other people tied to the smuggling incident were taken into custody on Tuesday, US Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas told the Associated Press news agency.
The driver, a US citizen, is currently in hospital, a Mexican official told the Reuters news agency.
The other men, identified as Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao and Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, both Mexican citizens, were arrested from the building where the truck was registered to. The men were charged with possessing firearms while residing in the US illegally, according to court documents. The complaints did not make any specific allegations related to the deaths.
The deceased included 39 men and 12 women and were discovered on Monday on the outskirts of San Antonio, where temperatures soared to a high of 39.4C (103F). Bodies were found inside the vehicle and strewn over a couple of blocks after the trailer’s rear door had been opened, a local law enforcement official told Reuters.
Local authorities said there were no signs of water or visible means of air-conditioning inside the truck. The officials said there were “stacks of bodies” and that some of the refugees and migrants were hot to the touch.
“It’s unspeakable,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said on MSNBC, noting that his community depends on migrants while there is a labour shortage. “It’s a tragedy beyond explanation.”
More than a dozen survivors, including four minors, were transported to area hospitals for heat stroke and exhaustion.
US President Remarks
US President Joe Biden said in a statement on Tuesday that the incident was “horrifying and heartbreaking”.
“Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful,” Biden said, vowing to crack down on multibillion-dollar criminal smuggling enterprises that have helped drive a record number of refugee and migrant crossings at the US-Mexico border since he took office in January 2021.
At least 27 Mexicans, three Guatemalans and four Hondurans were believed to be among the dead, according to officials from all three countries. There was no immediate information on the nationality of the other victims.
The truck may have been carrying about 100 refugees and migrants, but the exact number remained unclear, officials told Reuters.