More than three dozen migrants died in a dormitory fire at an immigration detention center in northern Mexico near the U.S. border, immigration officials said Tuesday.
The fire broke out when migrants fearing deportation set mattresses ablaze late Monday at the National Immigration Institute, a facility in Ciudad Juarez south of El Paso, Texas, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said.
At least 40 people had died and 29 injuries had been reported as of late Tuesday, the immigration institute confirmed in a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday. The injured were taken to hospitals, the institute said.
Authorities were investigating the fire, the institute said. The country’s prosecutor general has launched an investigation, Andrea Chávez, federal deputy of Ciudad Juarez, said in a statement. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission also was alerted.
What caused the fire?
López Obrador said the fire was started by migrants inside the facility after they learned they would be deported.
“They never imagined that this would cause this terrible misfortune,” López Obrador said.
The immigration institute said it “energetically rejects the actions that led to this tragedy,” without further explaining what those actions may have been.
Migrants from Central, South America caught in blaze
The institute said 68 men from Central and South America were staying at the immigration facility at the time of the fire. Authorities were working with other countries to identify the dead.
Victims were identified as being from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Guatemalans made up the largest contingent, according to the Mexican attorney general’s office.
Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Minister Mario Búcaro said 28 of the dead were Guatemalan citizens.
“We are going to look to find those responsible for this,” Búcaro said.