A fire that erupted on Monday evening at a detention facility for migrants in Ciudad Juarez, a large Mexican city on the border with the US, has claimed at least 39 lives and left 29 people seriously injured, Mexican authorities have confirmed.
The blaze broke out at a site run by Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM), which is located right next to a bridge that connects the city to El Paso, Texas. The agency said 68 adult men were housed at the site at the time when the fire broke out.
Prior to the official confirmation, local media had reported 37 deaths at the facility and two additional fatalities in hospitals, as two patients succumbed to their injuries.
The INM described the victims as coming “from Central and South America” and said it was in touch with the consular authorities of the relevant nations in light of the tragedy. Mexico will conduct a thorough investigation, it pledged.
The disaster may have started during an escape attempt by a group of Venezuelan detainees recently placed at the facility, according to media reports. The migrants were allegedly rounded up in the city over the previous days and detained at the center. It was not immediately clear if the blaze was intentional or accidental.
Ciudad Juarez, a city with over 1.5 million residents, is one of the key locations in Mexico where would-be asylum seekers and migrants flock to before attempting to cross into the US by various means.
Earlier this month, US Customs and Border Protection used barricades and troops in riot gear to stop hundreds of people who rushed across a different bridge based on a rumor that the border between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso was temporarily open.
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