At least 53 people were killed and dozens injured in a horrific truck accident in southern Mexico on Thursday, and most of the victims are believed to be migrants from Central America, Mexican authorities said.
The accident occurred in the southern state of Chiapas, when a truck carrying more than 100 people overturned on Thursday afternoon near Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital, the head of the Civil Protection Service, Luis Manuel Garcia Moreno, told Milenio TV.
The crash is one of the deadliest in decades, and comes after 13 immigrants died in a car crash at the US border in March.
Mr. Garcia said, based on witness testimony, that the truck was traveling at excessive speed and then overturned while turning into a sharp bend, as the trailer carrying the migrants crashed into a footbridge and nearby construction.
Pictures and videos circulated on social media showed more than a dozen bodies lying on the road covered in white sheets, near what appeared to be the twisted remains of an overturned vehicle.
The Civil Protection Service said on Facebook that 58 other people were injured. The accident occurred on the highway between the town of Chiapa de Corzo and the state capital.
“My solidarity with the victims of the traffic accident,” the state’s governor, Rutilio Escandon, said on Twitter. “I have instructed to provide immediate care and assistance to the injured. Responsibility is determined in accordance with the law.”
On the border with Guatemala, Chiapas has in recent years seen a wave of Central American migrants, many of whom were smuggled through Mexico on their way to the US border. 1.7 million immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Central America, were found trying to enter the United States illegally in the 12 months leading up to October of this year.
Attempting to reach the United States, whether to seek asylum or to seek economic opportunity, is a dangerous and sometimes deadly process, as migrants are forced to travel through cartel-infested lands in northern Mexico, often paying smugglers exorbitant prices to get them to the border.
Migrants are regularly packed into trucks or cars during their journey north, often falling prey to violence along the way. In January, the bodies of 19 people, mostly immigrants, were found in a charred truck near the US border. A group of 12 officers were later arrested in connection with the crime.
At least 3,575 deaths have been documented at the US-Mexico border since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration, with 650 people killed trying to cross the US border this year alone — the highest number since the International Organization for Migration began documenting deaths in year 2014. .
“The high number of migrant deaths in the region is deeply concerning,” said Michelle Klein Solomon, IOM’s regional director for Central and North America and the Caribbean, in a statement Wednesday.
At least 750 migrants have been killed trying to cross Mexico since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration, and thousands more have simply disappeared.
Thursday’s incident comes just a day after the United States relaunched a controversial immigrant law enforcement program known as Remain in Mexico, which would force asylum seekers to wait across the border while their cases are decided in US courts. The program has been criticized by human rights groups for the unsafe conditions migrants face in Mexico.
“Under the Mexico Stay Program, the United States and Mexico intentionally put the lives of thousands of asylum seekers at risk,” Ari Sawyer, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Thursday.