VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico — An infamous cargo train carrying at least 250 Central American migrants heading to the United States derailed in a remote region of southern Mexico today, killing five and injuring 16, authorities said.
The train company and rescue workers were bringing in two cranes to help search for more victims among the eight derailed cars of the train known as “The Beast,” officials said. Thousands of migrants ride its roof on their way north each year, braving brutal conditions for a chance at getting into the United States.
The Tabasco state government said at least 250 Honduran migrants were on the train heading north from the Guatemala border. Heavy rains had loosened the earth beneath the tracks and shifted the rails, officials said.
The locomotive and first car did not derail and were used to move victims to the nearest hospital, which is in the neighboring state of Veracruz. Tabasco state Civil Protection chief Cesar Burelo Burelo said the accident took place at 3 a.m. Sunday in a marshy area surrounded by lakes and forest that is out of cell-phone range.
The Red Cross said dozens of soldiers, marines, and civilian emergency workers rushed to the area, which ambulances couldn’t reach. Officials were trying to establish air or water links to the scene.
Mario Bustillos Borge, the Red Cross chief in Tabasco, described the rescue as “a complex situation” that was making it difficult to get rapid confirmation of the true number of dead and injured.
“There are some very high estimates, and others that are more conservative,” he told a local radio station, without providing details.
While the number of Mexicans heading to the United States has dropped off, there has been a surge of Central American migrants making the 1,000-mile northbound journey, fueled in large part by the rising violence brought to their homelands by the spread of Mexican drug cartels.
Central American migration remains small compared to the numbers of Mexicans still headed north.