Two trucks carrying the migrants — men, women and children — broke down in the northern desert while trying to reach neighboring Algeria, said Almoustapha Alhacen, speaking by telephone from Arlit, where they started their journey on Sept. 26. Responders, himself included, found groups of corpses — 15 here, 11 there — scattered in a wide radius around a well that the victims had tried to reach. Five other victims were discovered earlier, for a total of 92 dead.
At least 52 of the victims were children, said Mr. Alhacen, who heads a nongovernmental organization called Aghirin Man in Arlit, 120 miles south of the border.
Out of 113 who plunged into the desert in late September, bypassing the main road and its checkpoints, 21 survived, Mr. Alhacen said. Two, both smugglers, made it back to Arlit and are in jail, he said; 19 reached the Algerian city of Tamanrasset and were sent back. “They were doing this illegally, so they didn’t take the road,” Mr. Maouli said.
It is hard to comprehend the desperation that people feel to make a journey like this, which is almost the stuff of science fiction based on stories of what happens when population overruns resources and people are forced to seek refuge somewhere else.