At least 46 people were found dead inside of a semi-truck in San Antonio, Texas, Monday evening, June 27.
City councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia referred to the victims as migrants, after she was briefed on the situation by the San Antonio police chief.
The trailer was discovered on a road in the southwest of the city’s downtown by a local worker who heard a cry for help around 6pm, police said. When he came to investigate, he found the doors partially open and a number of deceased individuals inside.
Sixteen survivors, including four children, were taken to local hospitals suffering from heat stroke and heat exhaustion, the city’s fire chief Charles Hood told reporters at a press conference.
Mr Hood said those taken alive from the trailer were “hot to the touch,” but were likely to survive.
“It is our hope and prayer that the conditions of those that were transported will improve as we speak,” he added.
San Antonio police chief William McManus said three people were in custody following a preliminary investigation, but declined to give further details. The investigation is now being handled by the Department of Homeland Security.
The cause of the deaths is currently unknown, but smugglers are often known to use trailers to transport large numbers of migrants, and temperatures in the San Antonio and southern Texas have reached 100 degrees in recent weeks.
The discovery comes weeks after the US Border Patrol warned migrants not to risk their lives trying to cross the desert border amid record-breaking temperatures.
“(We) highly discourage migrants from attempting to illegally enter the United States, especially during summer months. The recent triple-digit temperatures represent a dangerous condition that can easily end in dehydration or heatstroke, provoking death,” the Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector said in a statement.
Local resident Ruby Chavez, 53, told the New York Times that the area where the trailer was discovered was known as a “drop-off spot” for migrants.
“You can tell they just get here. We see them with backpacks or asking for food or money,” she told the newspaper.
Ron Nirenberg, San Antonio’s mayor, called the incident a “horrific human tragedy.”
“There are, that we know of, 46 individuals who are no longer with us, who had families, who were likely trying to find a better life. And we have 16 folks who are fighting for their lives in the hospital. Our focus right now is to try to bring aid to them as best we can. But this is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” he said.