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54 die after truck smuggling migrants crashes in Mexico

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TUXTLA GUTIERREZ: Fifty-four migrants, mostly from Guatemala, were killed on Thursday when the truck they were in flipped over in southern Mexico, in one of the worst accidents involving Central Americans who risk their lives to reach the United States.

The trailer broke open, spilling out people, when the truck crashed on a sharp curve outside the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in the state of Chiapas.

Chiapas Governor Rutilio Escan­don said 49 people died at the scene, and five more while receiving medical attention.

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

“The trailer couldn’t handle the weight of people.”

More than 100 people were inside the trailer, authorities said.

The migrants inside the tipped-over trailer were tossed and crushed in a pile of both the living and the dead.

Volunteer rescuers removed the dead from the pile, while the living scrambled to get out of the twisted debris of the collapsed trailer.

One young man, pinned beneath unmoving bodies, wriggled to free the lower half of his frame, his face wrenched into a grimace as he extracted himself. Nearby, a man blinked, unable to move as he lay on the side of the road. Next to him was an older, stouter migrant whose lifeless eyes stared into the setting sun.

While the Mexican government is trying to appease the United States by stopping caravans of walking migrants and allowing the reinstatement of the Remain in Mexico policy, it has been unable to staunch the flood of migrants stuffed by the hundreds into trucks operated by smugglers who charge thousands of dollars to take them to the US. border trips that all too often lead them only to their deaths.

The most severely injured from the accident were carried to plastic sheets on the road. Those who could walk were led, stunned, to the same sheets. Ambulances, cars and pickup trucks were pressed into ferrying the injured to hospitals.

Later, the dead were covered in white sheets, side by side, on the highway. Rescue workers who first arrived said other migrants who had been on the truck when it crashed had fled for fear of being detained by immigration agents. One paramedic said some of those who hurried into surrounding neighborhoods were bloodied or bruised but still limped away in their desperation to escape.

About 200 migrants may have been packed into the truck, said Guatemala’s top human rights official Jordn Rodas. That number is not unusual for migrant smuggling operations in Mexico, and the weight of the load combined with speed and a nearby curve may have been enough to throw the truck off balance, authorities said.

Luis Manuel Moreno, head of the Chiapas state civil defence office, said 21 were seriously injured and were taken to hospitals. The federal Attorney General’s Office said three were critically injured in the crash, which happened on a highway leading from the Guatemalan border toward the Chiapas state capital.

Sitting beside the overturned trailer, Celso Pacheco of Guatemala said the truck felt like it was speeding and then seemed out of control.

Most aboard were from Guatemala and Honduras, he said, estimating eight to 10 young children among them. He said he was trying to reach the United States, but now expected to be deported to Guatemala. Authorities said there also were migrants from Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Mexico aboard.

Marco Antonio Snchez, director of the Chiapas Firefighter Institute, said ambulances brought victims to three hospitals, three or four at a time.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2021

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