Twelve immigrants found dead of exposure in Ariz. desert |

Twelve immigrants found dead of exposure in Ariz. desert

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) – Twelve illegal immigrants died in the Arizona desert after crossing the border from Mexico, and rescuers searched Wednesday for others who might be stranded in temperatures that climbed as high as 115 degrees, the Border Patrol said.

Southern Arizona became a popular crossing point for illegal immigrants after crackdowns in California and Texas during the 1990s pushed more people to try to enter the country through remote and dangerous areas.

Agents reported finding seven bodies about 25 miles from the border and four more bodies a few miles away. All had died of exposure. A twelfth man died while being taken to a hospital for treatment.

Rescuers had picked up a total of 13 survivors in the area by Wednesday evening, Border Patrol spokesman Maurice Moore said.

”We intend to work this until we’ve made sure that there’s no one left out there,” Moore said. ”It’s in the middle of nowhere there.”

Searchers found five men apparently suffering from heat exhaustion Wednesday morning who said they had been part of a group of 22 to 28 people smuggled across the border in a vehicle, Border Patrol spokesman Rob Daniels said.

Survivors said the smuggler told them to walk ”a couple of hours” to a highway and abandoned them. The highway was more than 50 miles away.

Border Patrol agents using four-wheel drive vehicles and five helicopters continued their search into the night.

Rescuers were searching for at least four more people, said Cyril Atherton, a supervisory Border Patrol agent.

The Border Patrol said 106 people died while crossing southern Arizona’s deserts during the federal fiscal year ending in September. Many of the deaths were from exposure. Before Wednesday’s discovery, at least two dozen people who crossed illegally had been found dead in southern Arizona so far this fiscal year.

The latest deaths are believed to be the most among one group of illegal immigrants since July 1980, when 13 Salvadorans died of exposure.

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