“Tonight, we are dealing with a horrific human tragedy.”
That is Ron Nirenberg, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas.
He spoke to reporters on Monday night after the discovery of dead bodies inside a truck abandoned by the road outside his city.
A San Antonio city worker heard a cry for help coming from the back of the truck. The worker opened it to find 46 people dead inside. Officials said sixteen people, including children, were taken to hospitals for heat-related illnesses, with four later dying.
Heat is a serious problem as summer temperatures can easily reach 38 degrees Celsius in south Texas. Inside cars and trucks, the temperature can be much higher.
The city’s fire chief said the truck’s cooling system was not working and they were suffering the effects of extreme heat without water. Three people were taken into custody, but it was unclear if they were related to human trafficking.
Nirenberg added that the people who died “had families who were likely trying to find a better life.”
The tragedy is one of the deadliest incidents in recent years involving migrants crossing the Mexico border into San Antonio.
Ten migrants died in 2017 after being trapped inside a truck parked at a Walmart store in the city. In 2003, the bodies of 19 migrants were found in a truck southeast of the city. More than 50 migrants were found alive in the back of a truck in 2018. The driver said he was to be paid $3,000 for the job. The man was sentenced to more than five years in prison.
U.S. President Joe Biden in a statement on Tuesday called the incident "horrifying and heartbreaking." He added that his administration was working to crack down on human trafficking networks.
Analysts who study immigration said they had been worried about something like what happened on Monday in Texas. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick works for the American Immigration Council. In a tweet, he wrote: “With the border shut … for migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been pushed into more and more dangerous routes.”
Migrants have been expelled more than 2 million times under a pandemic-era rule in effect since March 2020. The rule denies migrants a chance to seek asylum but does not punish them for getting caught. So, they attempt to cross the border repeatedly.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 557 deaths on the southwest border in the 12-months ending Sept. 30. That number is more than double the 247 deaths reported in the previous year and the highest since it began keeping records in 1998. Most are related to heat illnesses.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on reports by the Associated Press.
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Words in This Story
abandon–v. to leave something and not come back for it
horrific– adj. very sad or difficult to think about
tragedy –n. a very bad event that causes sadness and often involves someone's death
custody – n. the state of being under control of someone else, or kept in a prison or jail
traffic–v. to illegally sell something
route – n. a way to go get from one place to another