Police in the U.S. state of Texas have rescued 12 migrants from a sweltering box truck and charged three people with human smuggling.
The rented truck had been parked for hours at a Houston strip mall, until passersby heard people — 10 men, one woman and a teenaged girl — who were locked inside banging on the truck's walls and crying for help.
Temperatures were above 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Farenheit, inside the vehicle. Police who rescued the group said they were exhausted and soaked in sweat, but would recover.
"Thirty more minutes and this could have been a dozen homicide cases," said Harris County First Assistant District Attorney Tom Berg. "The quick action of the Houston police is commendable."
All the migrants are believed to have come from Latin America, and could be deported once they regain their health. They are in custody, awaiting action by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
The three people charged with human trafficking in the case face criminal charges punishable by up to 20 years in prison. They are each being held on $300,000 bond.