At least 54 killed after lorry smuggling migrants crashes in Mexico

More than 160 migrants were inside truck when it tipped over and crashed into steel bridge

The container of the lorry was smashed open by the force of the impact. Photograph: Alfredo Pacheco/Getty Images

The container of the lorry was smashed open by the force of the impact. Photograph: Alfredo Pacheco/Getty Images

 

Most of the victims of a truck crash in southern Mexico on Thursday that killed at least 54 people were Guatemalan migrants, authorities said on Friday as survivors relived the horror of the accident.

People spilled from the truck carrying an estimated 166 people after it flipped over on a curve outside the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in the state of Chiapas, causing one of the worst death tolls of migrants in Mexico in the past decade.

The Mexican attorney general’s office said it would investigate the incident, which state officials in Chiapas said had claimed the lives of 54 people and injured 58 others.

Authorities identified 95 Guatemalans among the people caught up in the accident, as well as three people from the Dominican Republic, a Honduran, a Mexican and an Ecuadorean.

Lists of people being treated in hospital published on social media showed dozens of Guatemalan migrants among the survivors. Local residents said other people fled the scene, apparently to evade arrest after the truck rolled over.

An unidentified Guatemalan man interviewed at the scene said when the trunk driver tried to negotiate the bend, the weight of people inside caused the vehicle flip over. “The trailer couldn’t handle the weight of people,” he said.

The head of Mexico’s National Guard, Luis Rodríguez, told a news conference the driver of the truck fled the scene and that the migrants on board told authorities they had entered Chiapas a few days before the accident took place.

There they stayed in so-called safe houses run by groups of suspected people smugglers before travelling, Mr Rodríguez said.

Thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America travel through Mexico each month to reach the US border. They often cram inside large trucks organised by smugglers in dangerous conditions.

National and international leaders expressed consternation at the death toll and urged migrants not to try their luck in making the journey north to the United States.

“Human smugglers disregard human life for their own profit. Please don’t risk your lives to migrate irregularly,” Ken Salazar, the US ambassador to Mexico said on Twitter.

Many migrants fall prey to criminal gangs en route. In January, 19 people, mostly migrants, were massacred with suspected police involvement in northern Mexico.

Record numbers of people have been arrested on the US-Mexico border this year as migrants seek to capitalise on President Joe Biden’s pledge to pursue more humane immigration policies than those of his hardline predecessor, Donald Trump. – Reuters