At least 50 people were found dead on Monday in the trailer of an abandoned 18-wheeler in San Antonio, Texas.
NBC News reports it appears to be the deadliest human smuggling case in modern U.S. history.
Sixteen other people, including four children, were hospitalized. Right now none of the victims had been identified, but many of them were young adults, officials told the news outlet.
The victims were migrants, City Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia told CNN earlier. The discovery came as the US federal authorities launched an “unprecedented” operation to disrupt human smuggling networks as a surge of migrants come to the US-Mexico border, according to the outlet.
After the discovery, three people were taken into custody. Still, San Antonio Police Chief William P. McManus added authorities didn’t know if they were connected to this specific incident.
From NBC News:
The grim discovery was made early Monday evening in an undeveloped area of southwest San Antonio near the railroad tracks. Someone who works in the area reported hearing a cry for help and spotted at least one body, officials said.
“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there,” Hood said.
McManus said the survivors lacked water and air conditioning. “The patients that we saw were hot to the touch,” he said. “They were suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion.”
According to McManus, Homeland Security Investigations has taken over the investigation. Heat is likely to be the culprit behind these deaths, according to NBC. Temperatures in the area reached 101 degrees on Monday, and temperatures inside the truck were likely far hotter than that.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the 46 people who died had “families who were likely trying to find a better life.”
“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” Nirenberg said.
According to CNN, rescues across the US southern border have been on the rise. Since October, more than 14,000 search-and-rescues have happened along the southern border. That number is up from the 12,833 search-and-rescues from the same period in 2021.