DAKAR, Senegal — Authorities in the nation of Niger have recovered 92 bodies of migrants who died of thirst after the trucks they were traveling in broke down in a desolate no-man's-land at the feet of the Sahara desert, officials said Thursday.
The dozens of people were being smuggled last month along a well-established trafficking route used to move contraband, including people, from Niger to neighboring Algeria, said Col. Garba Makido the governor of the Nigerien province of Agadez, south of where the bodies were found. Officials were alerted only when a lone woman managed to stumble out of the desert earlier this month. She was picked up by a passing car which took her to the city of Arlit, about 30 miles south of where the first of the two trucks broke down.
The next day, a father walking with his two young daughters also arrived. But his children perished of thirst just a few miles outside of Arlit, said Makido. A total of 21 people survived, most of whom made their way to towns at the Algerian border.
"This is a true tragedy," said Makido. "The prosecutor has opened an investigation and we plan to do everything we can to find the truck drivers."
First word of the incident came Monday when officials reported that 35 people died of thirst, but the death toll rose when more bodies were recovered from the desert.