Migrant truck crashes in Mexico, killing 54 dead

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico, Dec.9 (Reuters) – Fifty-four Central Americans, mostly, were killed Thursday when the truck they were in overturned in southern Mexico in one of the worst crashes involving migrants who risk their lives to reach the United States.

The trailer opened, knocking people over, when the truck crashed into a sharp bend outside the Chiapas state town of Tuxtla Gutierrez, according to footage of The Aftermath and authorities in civil protection.

Chiapas Governor Rutilio Escandon said 49 people died at the scene and five others while receiving medical treatment.

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“It took a turn, and because of the weight of us, the people inside, we all went with it,” said a shocked-looking Guatemalan sitting at the scene in footage posted on social media. .

“The trailer could not support the weight of the people.”

More than 100 people were inside the caravan, authorities said. Several dozen were injured and taken to hospitals in Chiapas, which borders Guatemala. Dozens of Guatemalan migrants have been named in lists of the injured posted on social media.

A Reuters witness heard screams and sobs among survivors as emergency personnel rushed to the site where the overturned truck stopped near a highway overpass.

Reuters footage showed a white trailer on its side, with injured people lying on tarpaulins on the ground. There were also rows of what appeared to be bodies wrapped in white cloth.

Video of the scene posted on social media showed a woman holding a crying child in her lap, both covered in blood. Another video showed a man curled up in pain inside the destroyed trailer, barely moving as helpers removed the bodies.

Men, women and children were among the dead, the Chiapas state government said, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Twitter expressed his sadness at the “very painful” incident.

‘NOT THE BEST WAY’

Migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America typically cross Mexico to reach the US border and sometimes crowd into large trucks organized by smugglers in extremely dangerous conditions.

“This shows us that irregular migration is not the best way,” Kevin Lopez, spokesperson for the Guatemalan presidency, told Milenio television after the accident.

He did not know how many Guatemalan victims there were.

El Salvador’s Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill said her government was working to see if any Salvadorans were dead.

Mexico has offered accommodation and humanitarian visas to survivors, and Chiapas Governor Escandon has said those responsible for the crash will be held to account.

Mexican authorities regularly meet migrants crammed into trailers, including 600 people found hidden in the backs of two trucks in eastern Mexico last month.

The journey north from the Mexican border with Guatemala is perilous and expensive, and many migrants fall prey to criminal gangs along the way. In January, 19 people, mostly migrants, were massacred with alleged police involvement in northern Mexico.

A record number of people have been arrested at the US-Mexico border this year as migrants seek to capitalize on President Joe Biden’s promise to pursue immigration policies that are more humane than his hard-line predecessor Donald Trump.

Mexican authorities in Chiapas tried to persuade migrants not to form caravans to travel thousands of miles to the US border and began transporting people from the southern town of Tapachula to other parts of the country.

The Biden administration has also urged migrants not to leave their countries of origin for the United States, and this week saw the restart of a policy initiated under Trump to return asylum seekers to Mexico to await their court hearings.

Some critics argue that stricter policies push migrants into the hands of smugglers, putting their lives at risk.

“(The authorities) generate illegal migration that generates billions of dollars in profits,” said migrant activist Ruben Figueroa.

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Reporting by Jacob Garcia; Additional reports by Jose Torres, Lizbeth Diaz, Noe Torres and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Written by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Aurora Ellis, Dave Graham and Robert Birsel

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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