July 14, 2005

Cell phone saves immigrants lost in Arizona desert

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A group of stranded illegal
immigrants facing death in the parched Arizona desert saved
themselves by using a cell phone they found to call rescue
services, the U.S. Border Patrol said on Thursday.

The group got lost in the desert near Arivaca, south of
Tucson, Arizona, on Wednesday after their guide abandoned them
during a four-day trek across the border from Mexico.

Lost and low on water, they used a cell phone they found in
their guide's bag to dial 911. Rescuers dispatched helicopters
and located the group in the desert shortly after sunset.

"Their quick thinking in using the phone to call for help
and lighting signal fires saved their lives," the Tucson Sector
of the U.S. Border Patrol said in a news release.

Since the beginning of July, 21 illegal immigrants have
died of heat exhaustion while crossing through the desert to
Arizona, where summer temperatures soar to highs of around 120
F (49 C).

The sun-baked state is the principal route used by mostly
Mexican immigrants seeking a new life in the United States.
Last year, more than half a million were arrested there.

The Border Patrol said on Thursday there was a strong
possibility that a heatwave in Arizona could cause a record
number of immigrant deaths.