8 migrants drown as dozens are swept down Rio Grande

The migrants were among scores of people crossing the river near Eagle Pass, a town in southern Texas. PHOTO: REUTERS

AUSTIN, Texas - Eight migrants drowned and 37 others were rescued as they tried to cross the raging waters of the Rio Grande to reach the United States, administration officials said Friday.

The migrants were among scores of people crossing the river near Eagle Pass, a town in southern Texas that has become a major entry point for migrants in the last year.

After heavy rains, the Rio Grande is several feet higher than normal, and law enforcement officials have reported making a number of rescues, including some over the last weekend as migrants struggling to keep their heads above water were being dragged by turbulent currents.

Mr Rick Pauza, spokesperson for the Customs and Border Protection office in Laredo, Texas, said in a statement that the authorities were continuing with the aid of the local fire department and sheriff's office to search for possible survivors.

In addition to the eight migrants who died, 37 others were rescued, the statement said, among a total of 53 migrants taken into custody by US authorities at the scene.

Mexican authorities apprehended an additional 39 migrants who were part of the group.

The fire chief in Eagle Pass, Mr Manuel Mello, said fierce currents had swept a number of migrants downstream as they attempted to cross about 1.6km south of the international bridge.

Drownings have become an everyday occurrence in that section of the border, Mr Mello said.

About two months ago, he said, 12 bodies were recovered on the same day - six by Mexican authorities and six by US rescue officials - after another large group tried to cross into the US.

More recently, two boys, one 3 years old and the other 3 months old, slipped from the grasp of an uncle as they were attempting to cross, he said. The older boy drowned, and the infant was rushed to a San Antonio hospital in critical condition.

In Thursday's tragedy, Mr Mello said, his firefighters used a swift-water rescue boat to recover the body of a young man in his 20s, while Border Patrol agents recovered the bodies of three other men found amid cane and brush on the edge of the Texas side of the river. NYTIMES

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