Several people are missing and one is dead after a raft overturned on the Rio Grande during an attempt by smugglers to get migrants from Mexico into the United States, according to officials.
Officials received a report late Wednesday night that a raft overturned in the river in the Del Rio region of the border.
“Unfortunately some of those were swept away when the raft turned over,” said a Department of Homeland Security official. Others struggled to stay afloat and keep their head above water, the official said.
Agents were able to jump into the river and rescue some of the people involved. Five people were rescued and four were initially reported missing. Of the four missing people, one was later found dead.
The rescue efforts were still ongoing as of Thursday morning.
“It highlights that last year, we, CBP were involved in the rescues of over 4,300 individuals,” said acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders. “Transnational criminal organizations are ruthless.”
The DHS official said the situation remains “fluid.” CBP is working with those who were rescued and survived to identify the missing.
During rescue efforts, the official said that agents heard “screams coming from the river” and they “turned out to be from individuals who were stranded and struggling to stay afloat.”
“The Rio Grande is a dangerous river, it looks calm, but it has resulted in a number of rescues and deaths over the years and is one of the main ways in which migrants are at risk from the terrain and natural barriers that exist as they travel north,” said the official.
“Water rescues are up significantly this year compared to last year,” the official added, telling CNN that so far this year there are more than 200 cases of water rescues.
The official noted that the incident puts a spotlight on the change in demographics of migrants arriving at the US southern border, where children and families with young people may not people able to withstand the elements.
“It’s tragic,” said the official.
Overall, border apprehensions are higher than they have been in over a decade, but it’s also the shift in population that has created the risky situation — from single men to families and children predominantly from Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.