By Jacob Garcia
TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Most of the victims of Thursday’s truck crash in southern Mexico that killed at least 54 people and injured dozens more were Guatemalan migrants, authorities said on Friday.
People spilled from the truck carrying an estimated 166 people after it flipped over on a curve outside the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in the state of Chiapas, causing one of the worst death tolls of migrants in Mexico in the past decade.
The Mexican Attorney General’s office said it would investigate the incident, which state officials in Chiapas said had claimed the lives of 54 people and injured 58 others.
Authorities identified 95 Guatemalans among the people caught up in the accident, as well as three people from the Dominican Republic, a Honduran, a Mexican and an Ecuadorean.
Lists of people being treated in hospital published on social media showed dozens of Guatemalan migrants among the survivors. Local residents said other people fled the scene, apparently to evade arrest after the truck rolled over.
An unidentified Guatemalan man interviewed at the scene said when the trunk driver tried to negotiate the bend, the weight of people inside caused the vehicle flip over.
“The trailer couldn’t handle the weight of people,” he said.
Thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America travel through Mexico each month to reach the U.S. border. They often cram inside large trucks organized by smugglers in extremely dangerous conditions.
National and international leaders expressed consternation at the death toll, and urged migrants not to try their luck in making the journey north to the United States.
“Human smugglers disregard human life for their own profit. Please don’t risk your lives to migrate irregularly,” Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico said on Twitter.
Many migrants fall prey to criminal gangs en route. In January, 19 people, mostly migrants, were massacred with suspected police involvement in northern Mexico.
Record numbers of people have been arrested on the U.S.-Mexico border this year as migrants seek to capitalize on President Joe Biden’s pledge to pursue more humane immigration policies than his hardline predecessor, Donald Trump.
Mexican authorities in Chiapas have attempted to persuade migrants to not form caravans to walk thousands of miles to the U.S. border, and have begun transporting people from the southern city of Tapachula to other regions of the country.
(Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Jose Torres; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Alison Williams)