Mortuaries and funeral homes in the small Texas border town of Eagle Pass reported being "overwhelmed" by the spike in migrant drownings. As a result, the town's fire department requested additional refrigerators to store the bodies temporarily.
Eagle Pass Fire Department Chief Manuel Mello III told Fox News, "There are so many bodies being recovered that the morticians are asking for assistance." He stated that the town is experiencing more drownings than ever before.
Mello joined the fire department 25 years ago and noted an increase in drownings over the years. He said the department would recover approximately 12 bodies per year when he started.
According to Mello, Eagle Pass now recovers a body from the Rio Grande river daily. The Fire Department Chief stated, "It's very traumatic for my personnel." He told Fox News that the mental health of his workers is suffering.
Referring to his staff, Mello stated, "These are young gentlemen, young women that are seeing more than any normal person would see in a lifetime. I mean, if you think about it, it's almost like a warzone."
According to Customs and Border Protection, 13 migrants died attempting to cross the river two weeks ago.
Mello explained the dangers of crossing the Rio Grande. He stated that some areas of the river are shallow and deceptively easy to navigate but then unexpectedly drop off by 10 to 12 feet.
The fire department chief reported that many children have died attempting to wade the river from Mexico to the United States.
"We had babies not too long ago drown. We had a three-month-old baby. We had a three-year-old baby brother that passed away. The uncle was trying to cross. He fell into a deep hole in the river, let go of the babies. The babies drowned," Mello said.
According to the fire department chief, the town has four ambulances and two reserve trucks. Mello reported that the ambulances get overwhelmed every day.
"I don't see any end in sight. I think Washington needs to do something about it," Mello stated. He urged government officials to visit the town to see the situation firsthand. "We got a big issue here in Eagle Pass."
Tom Schmerber, the sheriff of Maverick County where Eagle Pass is located, told the New York Post in August about the number of drownings. "Every day we get maybe three or four," he said.
Schmerber also reported the strain on the local morgues. He said one of the morgues even requested to place the bodies outside the jail, but the sheriff denied the request. "I said, 'No, I don’t want to take the responsibility if an animal comes,'" Schmerber stated.
A funeral home director told the New York Post, "It's been 16 cases in three days. And it's not stopping — it's getting worse. I don't want this anymore. It's too sad."