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At least 50 migrants found dead inside trailer in San Antonio

The tragedy is believed to be the deadliest case of human smuggling in modern U.S. history.

SAN ANTONIO (CN) — At least 50 migrants have been found dead in a tractor-trailer near an Air Force base outside San Antonio, Texas, according to an updated death toll provided by authorities Tuesday.

Sixteen people, including four children, have been transported to the hospital suffering from heat-related injuries. 

Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard said in a Twitter post Tuesday morning that 22 of the people found dead were Mexican nationals while seven were from Guatemala and two were from Honduras. More information on the remaining 19 people who died has yet to be released.

San Antonio Police Chief William P. McManus reported that three people have been taken into custody, but his office has yet to provide more information about their possible connection to the incident. McManus reported that a worker in the area heard cries for help coming from the trailer sometime after 6 p.m. on Monday. 

Officials reported that the trailer appeared to have a refrigeration system that was not working. In addition, some of the deceased were found along several blocks leading to the trailer. Authorities believe they jumped out of the trailer.

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said the survivors still inside the trailer when officials arrived were without water, hot to the touch and too weak to exit on their own. Hood believed that despite suffering from heat exhaustion, he expected them to survive. 

Much of Texas has been experiencing above-average temperatures since May. The month of June has seen at least 10 sweltering days at or over 100 degrees.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is leading the investigation into the tragic incident, which is believed to be the deadliest case of human smuggling in modern U.S. history. The investigation is being conducted with the support of the San Antonio Police Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"I am heartbroken by the tragic loss of life today and am praying for those still fighting for their lives," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote on Twitter. “Far too many lives have been lost as individuals – including families, women, and children – take this dangerous journey."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, blamed President Joe Biden for the deaths in a tweet.

“These deaths are on Biden,” Abbott wrote. “They are a result of his deadly open-border policies.”

Abbott, who is running for reelection, has launched a statewide border security initiative called Operation Lone Star, seeking to deter the flow of migrants entering the state outside of a legal port of entry.

His Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, called Monday's discovery devastating and called for urgent action.

“Dismantle human smuggling rings and replace them with expanded avenues for legal migration that reflect our values and meet our country’s needs,” said O’Rourke.

This is not the first time migrants have perished traveling to the U.S. in a tractor-trailer. Most recently, in 2017, San Antonio police discovered nearly 40 migrants in a hot trailer. Ten people died due to their heat-related injuries.

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