Victims were found without any identification and, in one case, with a stolen ID. Poor telephone service in remote villages makes it difficult to reach family members and determine the provenance of missing migrants. Fingerprint data must be relayed and compared by different governments.
The death toll rose to 53 on Wednesday, after two more migrants died, according to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office. Forty of the victims were men and thirteen were women, he said.
Officials had potential identifications on 37 of the victims as of Wednesday morning, pending verification with authorities in other countries.
It is a tedious, sad and difficult processsaid Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores, who represents the district where the tractor-trailer was abandoned.
The bodies were discovered Monday afternoon on the outskirts of San Antonio, in what is believed to be the country’s deadliest migrant smuggling episode at the US-Mexico border. More than a dozen people were taken to hospital, including four children. Three people were arrested.
The truck, which was registered in Alamo, Texas, but had fake plates and logos, was carrying 67 migrants, Francisco Garduño, head of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, said Wednesday.
The driver was apprehended after trying to pretend to be one of the migrants, Garduño said. Two other Mexicans were also arrested, he said.
Among the dead were 27 people from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, 7 from Guatemala and 2 from El Salvador, he said. One of the victims had no identification, Garduño said.
The tragedy came at a time when large numbers of migrants are arriving in the United States, many of them taking perilous risks to cross rivers and canals and scorching desert landscapes.
With little information about the victims, the desperate families of migrants from Mexico and Central America frantically sought to hear from their loved ones.
Several survivors were in critical condition with injuries such as brain damage and internal bleeding, according to Rubén Minutti, Mexico’s consul general in San Antonio.