CHONTALPA, Mexico — Hundreds of Central Americans riding atop a cargo train in hopes of getting to the United States were being threatened and extorted by armed men before the train derailed and killed at least six, survivors said.
Many who had sneaked onto the roof of the train were thrown loose when eight of its 12 cars derailed as it hauled tons of metal junk through a remote, swampy stretch of southern Mexico, according to witnesses.
At least some of the dead were trapped because they had tied themselves to the train to avoid slipping as they rode between cars.
Witness accounts offered a close-up look at the horrifying conditions faced by the tens of thousands of Central Americans who cross Mexico in increasing numbers in hopes of finding work in the United States, even as Mexican migration slows. Gangs of armed men prowl the train line, robbing, kidnapping, extorting, and raping those trying to cross Mexico.
Hundreds squeeze together atop the train. Others ride between cars for lack of space, or to obtain shelter from the rain and wind.
‘‘Those are the ones who died,’’ Jose Hector Alfonso Pacheco, a 48-year-old from Honduras, said in a shelter where Mexican authorities were housing dozens of the estimated 250 who had been riding on the train.
Rescue workers were moving tons of wreckage with heavy equipment Monday and expected to find more bodies, though not in the massive numbers first feared. At least five migrants suffered grave injuries, with dozens of others less seriously hurt.