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46 Migrants Found Dead in Overheated, Abandoned Tractor Trailer Near San Antonio

Crossing into the U.S. was a risky business to begin with, and climate change is only making it worse.

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An aerial view of the abandoned tractor trailer on June 27 in San Antonio, Texas.
An aerial view of the abandoned tractor trailer on June 27 in San Antonio, Texas.
Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar (Getty Images)

Nearly four dozen migrants were found dead inside of an abandoned tractor trailer just outside of San Antonio yesterday.

Sixteen people were found still alive in the trailer and were transported to a hospital. There were 12 adults and four children, France24 reported. The people in the trailer are migrants from several countries including Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. The nationality of some of the deceased has not yet been confirmed, according to The New York Times.

Those still alive inside of the trailer were hot to the touch and seemed to be suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration, CNN reported. There was no water inside of the truck nor any visible air conditioning unit, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said at a press conference near the grisly scene.

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This tragic incident occurred on a day when San Antonio temperatures reached the high 90s to low 100s. San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told The Texas Tribune that this was the deadliest human smuggling incident that he could recall in the city, though it is unfortunately not the only smuggling related death that occurred in the area. Back in July 2017, 10 migrants died inside of a hot tractor-trailer outside of a San Antonio Walmart.

Such deaths could become more common for migrants trying to find their way into the country as areas all across the American Southwest see record breaking daytime and nighttime temperatures. A 2021 study found that dehydration related to heat is one of the main causes of death for migrants crossing through the U.S. Mexico border. Many of the people that make the dangerous trek north carry water and food with them, but oftentimes not enough to offset the harsh conditions that they have to endure. More deaths are to be expected as climate change worsens dry and hot conditions in that region of the country.

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Dr. Priscilla Agyemang, a doctor of internal medicine with Columbia Primary Care, about the risk survivors of the incident will face, considering how long they were trapped in the hot trailer. She explained that if the migrants taken to the hospital were conscious, they were likely to be stabilized quickly with the proper treatment.

“I would say a large majority of people have full recovery [from heat exhaustion] depending on the degree of assistance they need afterwards,” she said. “Obviously, the older or sicker that you are, it may take longer to recover.”