TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, MEXICO – In one of the most tragic accidents involving migrants who risk their lives to reach the United States, 54 migrants were killed in southern Mexico on Thursday when a truck they were in flipped over.
According to video footage of the aftermath and civil protection authorities, the trailer broke open when the truck crashed on a sharp curve outside the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in the state of Chiapas, spilling people out.
In addition to those who died at the scene, five others died while receiving medical attention, according to Chiapas Governor Rutilio Escandon.
“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.”
Authorities said more than 100 people were inside the trailer. Several dozen people were injured and taken to hospitals in Chiapas, which borders Guatemala. On social media, dozens of Guatemalan migrants were listed as injured.
Emergency crews rushed to the scene where the truck shuddered to a halt by a highway footbridge as survivors cried and sobbed.
Several injured people were splayed out on tarps on the ground in a white trailer on its side. A row of what appeared to be bodies was covered with white cloth.
A video of the scene was posted to social media, showing a woman holding a child in her lap who was covered in blood. A second video showed a man curled up in pain inside the damaged trailer, barely moving as helpers pulled bodies from the wreckage.
According to the Chiapas government, men, women, and children were killed in the incident, which Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador referred to on Twitter as “very painful.”
Migrants are forced through Mexico to reach the border, sometimes cramming into trucks operated by smugglers under extremely dangerous circumstances as they flee poverty and violence in Central America.
Kevin Lopez, a spokesman for Guatemala’s presidency, told Milenio television following the accident, “This shows that irregular migration is not the best way to travel.”
Salvador’s foreign minister, Alexandra Hill, said her government was investigating whether any Salvadorans had died.
The Mexican government offered survivors lodging and humanitarian visas, while Chiapas Governor Escandon said those responsible for the tragedy would be held accountable.
Last month, officials in eastern Mexico discovered 600 migrants hidden in the back of two trucks packed into trailers.
Mexican migrants traveling north from Guatemala’s border face perilous and costly journeys, and many fall victim to criminal gangs while traveling. An alleged police-involved massacre in northern Mexico resulted in the deaths of 19 people, mostly migrants.
An unprecedented number of migrants have been arrested on the U.S.-Mexico border this year because of President Joe Biden’s pledge to pursue more humane immigration policies than his hardline predecessor, Donald Trump.
The Mexican government has stepped up efforts in Chiapas to discourage migrants from forming caravans that trek thousands of miles to the U.S. border, as well as providing transport from the southern city of Tapachula to other parts of the country.
As part of the Biden administration’s efforts to prevent migrants from leaving their countries to seek refuge in the United States, this week saw the start of a policy initiated under Trump to return asylum seekers to Mexico while awaiting court hearings.
Harder policies, according to critics, force migrants into the hands of human smugglers, risking their lives.
Ruben Figueroa, a migrant activist, said “authorities generate smuggled migration which generates billions in profits.”