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Eight people found dead in lorry outside San Antonio Walmart were victims of 'horrific human trafficking crime'
Eight suspected illegal immigrants have been found dead inside a truck parked behind a Walmart store in Texas, authorities say. Many were suffering from heat stoke and exhaustion in the trailer, which lacked air conditioning or a water supply, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said. Twenty people were airlifted to seven hospitals and their conditions were "critical to very critical", Mr Hood said.
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Human trafficking suspected as nine people die in sweltering lorry at Texas car park
At least nine people have died after being crammed inside a sweltering lorry parked at a Walmart store in San Antonio, Texas, and authorities said they were the victims of "ruthless" human traffickers. The driver was arrested, and nearly 20 others rescued from the rig were in hospital in dire condition, many with extreme dehydration and heatstroke, officials said. Authorities were called to the San Antonio car park late Saturday night or early Sunday and found eight dead inside the truck. A ninth victim died at the hospital. The victims "were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water" to air conditioning, Fire Chief Charles Hood said. Based on initial interviews with survivors of the weekend tragedy, more than 100 people may have been packed into the back of the 18-wheeler at one point in its journey, ICE acting Director Thomas Homan said. In addition to the dead, there were 28 injured - 20 of them severely Thirty-nine were inside when rescuers arrived, and the rest were believed to have escaped or hitched rides to their next destination, officials said. Temperatures outside the vehicle topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius). The truck's driver was arrested and will face charges, said Richard Durbin, US attorney for the Western District of Texas, and prosecutors are working to identify others responsible. The bodies were discovered after officials were led to the trailer by a man who had approached a Walmart employee and asked for water. "All were victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo," Durbin said. "These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters. Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus degree heat," he said. A police officer works on the crime scene behind a Walmart store in San Antonio, Texas Credit: Ray Whitehouse/Reuters San Antonio is about 150 miles (240 km) north of the border with Mexico. Temperatures in the area held above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8C) until 6 p.m. local time on Saturday and were expected to soar into the 100s again on Sunday, with humidity making the heat feel close to 110 degrees, forecasters said. Raids on suspected illegal immigrants have ramped up across the United States in recent months, after president Donald Trump's vow to crack down on those entering the country without authorisation or overstaying their visas. In Texas alone, federal immigration agents said they arrested 123 illegal immigrants with criminal records in an eight-day operation that ended last week. The San Antonio deaths come more than a decade after what is considered the worst immigrant smuggling case in US history, when 70 people were found stuffed into an 18-wheeler. Nineteen of them died in the incident in Victoria, Texas, about 100 miles southeast of San Antonio, in May 2003. San Antonio Police Chief William McManus described the latest fatalities as a "horrible tragedy" and said other suspects had fled the scene as police officers arrived. Police forensics officers work on the crime scene "Checking the video, there were a number of vehicles that came and picked up other people who were in that trailer," McManus said. Twenty people were airlifted to seven hospitals and their conditions were "critical to very critical," Hood said. Eight others are hospitalised in less serious condition, he said. At San Antonio's University Hospital, six adults were admitted early Sunday with heat-related injuries, all of them in critical condition, spokesman Donald Finley said. McManus said the people in the truck ranged from school-age juveniles to adults in their 20s and 30s. He said the Department of Homeland Security had joined the investigation, and that the origin of the truck is unclear. Experts have warned in recent months that tougher immigration policies could make it more difficult to stop human trafficking. Measures to harden international borders encourage would-be migrants to turn to smugglers and fear of deportation deters whistle-blowing, they said. The Border Patrol has regularly reported finding suspected immigrants inside trucks along the U.S. border with Mexico. Earlier this month, 72 Latin Americans were found in a trailer in Laredo, it said. In June, 44 people were found in the back of a lorry in the same Texas city, which lies directly across the Rio Grande from Mexico.