At least 53 people died after the packed truck they were riding in crashed into a pedestrian bridge over a highway near the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Another 58 people were injured in the crash, officials said.
Luis Manuel Moreno, the head of the Chiapas state civil defense office, said at least 21 were seriously hurt and taken to nearby hospitals.
Moreno said some of the survivors told police that they were from Guatemala.
Images shared online by local authorities showed lines of injured victims laying on the street as emergency responders tended to them. Other pictures showed rows of bodies covered in white sheets at the crash scene.
Before the crash, the truck was reportedly speeding along the highway near the state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez. The driver later fled the scene.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei wrote on Twitter, “I deeply regret the tragedy in Chiapas state, and I express my solidarity for the victims’ families, to whom we will offer all the necessary consular assistance, including repatriation.”
Giammattei’s counterpart in Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, shared a similar sentiment. He called Thursday’s tragedy “very painful.”
Overcrowded vehicles are a regular method of smuggling
Immigration authorities and border communities in the U.S. and Mexico have been feeling the strain of a large numbers migrants, largely from Central America.
This surge in migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally has brought about an uptick in the number of crashes involving vehicles jammed with people. The passengers often pay large amounts to be smuggled into the U.S. and their smugglers stuff them into overcrowded vehicles and trucks.
In August, a packed van carrying 29 migrants crashed on a remote South Texas highway. At least 10 people were killed, including the driver. Authorities said at the time another 20 were injured.
On March 3, 13 people were killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into a SUV carrying 25 migrants about 125 miles east of San Diego, near Holtville, Calif. In that case, cars drove through a piece of the border fence that was cut away. Most of those killed were Mexican citizens.