The number of dead migrants found in a stifling trailer in Texas rose to 53 on Wednesday after two more people died, according to the Bexar county medical examiner’s office.
Forty of the victims were male and 13 were female, ha detto.
The bodies were discovered Monday afternoon on the outskirts of San Antonio in what is believed to be the nation’s deadliest smuggling episode on the US-Mexico border. More than a dozen people were taken to hospitals, including four children. Three people have been arrested.
But identifying the dead has been difficult, illustrating the challenges authorities face in tracing people who cross borders clandestinely. Victims have been found with no identification documents at all and in one case with a stolen ID. Remote villages lack phone service to reach family members and determine the whereabouts of missing migrants. Fingerprint data has to be shared with and matched by different governments.
Officials had possible identifications on 37 of the victims as of Wednesday morning, pending verification with authorities in other countries.
“It’s a tedious, tedious, sad, difficult process,” said Bexar county commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores, who represents the district where the truck was abandoned.
The truck, which was registered in Alamo, Texas, but had fake plates and logos, was carrying 67 migranti, Francisco Garduno, chief of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, said Wednesday.
The driver was apprehended after trying to pretend he was one of the migrants, Garduno said. Two other Mexican men also have been detained, Egli ha detto.
Among the dead were 27 people from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, Egli ha detto. One of the victims had no identification, Garduno said.
The tragedy occurred at a time when huge numbers of migrants have been coming to the US, many of them taking perilous risks to cross swift rivers and canals and scorching desert landscapes. Migrants were stopped nearly 240,000 times in May, up by one-third from a year ago.
With little information about the victims, desperate families of migrants from Mexico and Central America frantically sought word of their loved ones.
Several survivors were in critical condition with injuries such as brain damage and internal bleeding, according to Ruben Minutti, the Mexico consul general in San Antonio.
Guatemala’s foreign ministry said late Tuesday that it had confirmed two hospitalized Guatemalans and was working to identify three possible Guatemalans among the dead. Honduras’ foreign relations ministry said it was trying to confirm the identities of four of the dead who were carrying Honduran papers.
Eva Ferrufino, a spokesperson for Honduras’ foreign ministry, said her agency was working with the Honduras consulate in south Texas to match names and fingerprints and complete identifications.
US congressman Henry Cuellar told the Associated Press Wednesday that Homeland Security investigators believe the migrants boarded the truck in or around Laredo, on US soil, but have not confirmed that. He said the truck went through a Border Patrol checkpoint northeast of Laredo on Interstate 35 di lunedi.
Before leaving on the more than two-hour trip to San Antonio, the truck had been parked Monday in south Texas just north of the border, Garduno said.
Authorities think the truck had mechanical problems when it was left next to a railroad track in an area of San Antonio surrounded by auto scrapyards close to a busy freeway, said Bexar county judge Nelson Wolff.
San Antonio has been a recurring scene of tragedy and desperation in recent years involving migrants in semitrailers.
Ten migrants died in 2017 after being trapped inside a truck parked at a San Antonio Walmart. Nel 2003, the bodies of 19 migrants were found in a sweltering truck south-east of the city.