The Limited Times

Now you can see non-English news...

Eagle Pass firefighters and paramedics try to overcome the trauma of recovering bodies in the Rio Grande

2024-02-25T21:02:23.540Z

Highlights: Eagle Pass firefighters and paramedics try to overcome the trauma of recovering bodies in the Rio Grande. "They see decomposing bodies, children who have drowned, two-month-old babies with their eyes half open and their mouths full of mud," said Manuel Mello, fire chief. The city applied for a grant for mental health funding for its workers. After a record number of irregular crossings in December, federal authorities say the total has fallen by half for January. The largest decrease was in the Border Patrol's Del Rio sector, which includes Eagle Pass.


"They see decomposing bodies, children who have drowned, two-month-old babies with their eyes half open and their mouths full of mud," said Manuel Mello, fire chief. The city applied for a grant for mental health funding for its workers.


By Morgan Chesky and Alicia Victoria Lozano -

NBC News

The crisis that has been experienced on the border between the United States and Mexico since last year has spread to the fire trucks and ambulances of a small city in the state of Texas.

Emergency personnel in Eagle Pass say they are overwhelmed and increasingly traumatized by what they see: parents drowning or dying, their children barely clinging to life as they try to cross the Rio Grande.

The emotional impact on firefighters and first responders is such that city officials have applied for a state grant that would allow additional mental health resources for their emergency workers.

[The death of a migrant mother and her two children in the Rio Grande escalates the Biden Government's dispute with Texas]

"It is an unprecedented crisis

," said Manuel Mello, Eagle Pass fire chief.

"It's nothing like what I experienced when I was on the (front) line, it's a completely different monster."

Manuel Mello, chief of the Eagle Pass Fire Department, accompanied by firefighters Marcos Kypuros and Haris García.NBC News

Firefighters say the first emergency calls usually come to the three stations in Eagle Pass as crews drink their morning coffee, preparing for what the day will bring.

Parents with their young children who are about to drown or trapped on islands somewhere between the United States and Mexico, surrounded by the fierce currents of the Rio Grande.

On some shifts, Eagle Pass Fire Department personnel can spend up to three to five hours in the water helping to rescue migrants who crossed the river or recovering their bodies.

"It's something we've never been through," said Marcos Kypuros, a native of Eagle Pass and a firefighter and first responder for two decades.

"It's been difficult having to continue at that pace while trying to respond to everything else we need to take care of."

In recent months, Eagle Pass has become the center of an immigration crisis that is equal parts political and humanitarian.

[Videos of dramatic rescues of migrants in the Rio Grande are published]

With hundreds of thousands of people attempting to irregularly cross the border near Eagle Pass each year, the city's emergency personnel have increasingly been called upon to perform difficult and dangerous rescues to recover bodies.

This while they handle other emergencies in the city of 28,000 residents and in sparsely populated Maverick County.

"They see decomposing bodies, children who have drowned, two-month-old babies with their eyes half open and their mouths full of mud," Mello said.

"I know when I started working I was told we would see all of that, but not in the numbers we are reporting now."

The volume of calls to the fire department spiked last summer following the end of Title 42, which limited asylum seekers hoping to enter the United States.

On a typical day they would receive about 30 calls, but that number has doubled in recent months, according to Mello.

The pressure motivated one of his firefighters, who was still in the required probationary period, to return his equipment and change careers, he said.

After a record number of irregular crossings in December, federal authorities say the total has fallen by half for January.

The largest decrease was in the Border Patrol's Del Rio sector, which includes Eagle Pass.

"The time when we recovered four, five, six and even seven bodies a day was hard," Kypuros said.

As the number of emergency calls at the border increased last fall, so did the number of sick days firefighters requested, according to their chief.

"I tried to leave everything at work and not take it home with me, but it's very difficult

," Kypuros said.

"Sometimes it's hard to cope."

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

It is unclear when the funds the city requested will be available.

[They rescue 11 migrants from the Rio Grande, including several children]

Following the record number of migrants attempting to cross the border last year, Abbott stepped up migration control measures in the state.

Last week he announced the deployment of 1,800 members of the Texas National Guard to Eagle Pass to stop irregular crossings.

Abbott also installed a barbed wire fence near the Rio Grande and placed a water wall of buoys in its waters to prevent and discourage crossings.

Firefighters have treated injuries and open wounds of people who tried to crawl under the wire, Kypuros said.

Local hospitals sometimes became so overwhelmed with patients from the border that wait times for a bed are up to two hours, Garcia added.

A migrant bleeds after cutting himself on the fence in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Eric Gay/AP

While thousands of people without access to avenues to obtain US citizenship wait in precarious makeshift camps on the Mexican side of the border, others attempt to cross the dangerous Rio Grande River, putting their lives and those of their loved ones at risk.

Harish García, who has been working as a firefighter and paramedic in Eagle Pass for three years, still cannot erase the memory of a mother and her young daughter drowning.

His team, which included a firefighter with a daughter the same age as the girl, transferred them to an ambulance, but it was too late.

[Texas will build a military camp on the border with Mexico to stop the crossing of migrants]

When the team returned to the station, some called their families.

Others remained silent, García said.

"Unfortunately,

the calls will continue to come, so we can't hold on to that for long

," he said months later.

"We have to let it go and move on to the next call."

García and Kypuros lost count of how many bodies they have recovered in recent months, they say.

Most are found after failed attempts to cross the river, but other times they have to venture into the south Texas brush, where dehydration and exposure can be just as deadly.

Migrants cross the Rio Grande toward Eagle Pass, Texas.John Moore/Getty Images

David Black, a psychologist who has worked with California authorities for more than 20 years, said that witnessing the death of a child is usually the most traumatic event an emergency worker can experience.

Without a strong support system inside and outside of work, stress can consume them.

"We outsource our worst-case scenarios to emergency workers," he said.

"If you have children, that can greatly influence how you view your own family."

While Eagle Pass waits for state funds to be approved, Customs and Border Protection agents and other federal workers already have access to other mental health resources.

The services, which include on-site doctors and psychologists, are part of a larger effort to "improve resilience and encourage our colleagues to seek help when they need it," said Troy Miller, acting CBP commissioner.

Mello said that, despite the uncertain nature of the border crisis and the political tensions between the White House and the governor's office, he is optimistic that help will arrive.

Until then, he knows the calls for help will keep coming.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2024-02-25

You may like

News/Politics 2024-02-15T05:12:58.380Z
News/Politics 2024-03-25T07:34:46.957Z

Trends 24h

News/Politics 2024-04-13T14:41:38.625Z

Latest

© Communities 2019 - Privacy

The information on this site is from external sources that are not under our control.
The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.