A fire official said that 16 people, including four children, had also been taken to the hospital.
At least 46 people have been found dead in an abandoned truck on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, reported TODAY. San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said that 16 people, including four children, had also been taken to the hospital.
The survivors were "hot to the touch" and suffering from heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
San Antonio, which is 250km (150 miles) from the US-Mexico border, is a major transit route for people smugglers. Human traffickers often use trucks to transport undocumented migrants after meeting them in remote areas once they have managed to cross into the United States. "They had families... and were likely trying to find a better life," San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. "It's nothing short of a horrific, human tragedy."
Migrants seeking asylum should always be treated as a humanitarian crisis, but this evening we're facing a horrific human tragedy.— Mayor Ron Nirenberg (@Ron_Nirenberg) June 28, 2022
More than 40 hopeful lives were lost. I urge you to think compassionately, pray for the deceased, the ailing, and their families at this moment.
Police Chief William McManus said at a press conference that authorities received a call at approximately 5:50 p.m. local time from a worker who had heard cries for help and found the trailer with its doors partially open. The worker found a number of dead bodies inside the trailer, McManus said. He added that three people were in custody, though he noted that authorities aren't certain if they're connected to the situation. The incident is now under federal investigation.
San Antonio's climate is blisteringly hot in the summer months. With temperatures reaching 39.4C (103F) on Monday, it is suspected that the victims likely died from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Mexico's Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said that two Guatemalans were among those taken to hospital. The nationalities of the other victims were not immediately clear.
The victims were a mix of men and women and varied in age, but none of the deceased appeared to be minors, officials said. Hood said that first responders were now being debriefed to help them process what they witnessed. "You're not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there," he said. "None of us come to work imagining that."
Edward Reyna, a security guard at a lumber yard nearby, said he was not surprised to arrive for his night shift and hear the news, per BBC. He said he had lost count of the times he had seen migrants jumping off the train that passes right next to where the truck was found. "I thought sooner or later, somebody was going to get hurt," Reyna said. "The cartels that bring them over don't care about them."
A spokesperson for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told ABC News that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) responded to a call on Monday regarding an alleged human smuggling event and, upon arriving at the scene, confirmed the death of more than 40 people. "HSI continues its enforcement efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities. We will continue to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of those smuggled," the ICE spokesperson said in a statement.
"To report suspicious activity, we encourage people to call the HSI Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. All calls are kept confidential," they continued. HSI is the arm of ICE responsible for taking down smuggling networks. "Details will be released as they are available, the criminal investigation remains ongoing," the ICE spokesperson added.
Monday’s tragedy comes as the number of migrants apprehended at the southern border recently reached record-breaking numbers. According to CBP data, authorities encountered more than 1 million migrants along the southwest border since January. The number is over six times that of incidents recorded during the same time period in 2020 and more than double the number of cases in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic began, according to the data. The agency reported at least 557 deaths on the southwest border in the 12-month period before Sept. 30, representing more than double the 247 deaths reported in the year prior, according to The Associated Press. Most were related to heat exposure.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, blamed the incident on President Joe Biden's immigration policies. "These deaths are on Biden," he said in a tweet. "They are a result of his deadly open border policies." The White House declined to comment on Abbott's tweet.