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Last updateThứ 6, 15 11 2019 5pm

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UK Police Expand Probe, Say 39 Dead Found in Truck All From China

LONDON - British police have confirmed that 39 people found dead in a truck container at an industrial park were Chinese nationals. Police say 31 of the victims were men and eight were women.

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Police officers are on the scene after a truck, in rear, was found to contain a 39 dead bodies, later found to be Chinese nationals, in Thurrock, England, Oct. 23, 2019.

Officers from the Essex police force in eastern England are leading the murder investigation, while officials from the Chinese Embassy in London have also visited the scene.

"We read with a heavy heart the reports about the death of 39 people in Essex, England," the Chinese Embassy said in a statement. "We are in close contact with the British police to seek clarification and confirmation of the relevant reports."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives and their loved ones."

The truck driver, identified as 25-year-old Mo Robinson from Northern Ireland, has been arrested. Local magistrates have given police an extra 24 hours to question him. Family and friends say he is innocent, and claim he called emergency services when he discovered the bodies on Wednesday morning.

Reports indicate the container was a refrigerated unit, with temperatures inside as low as minus-25 degrees Celsius. Police began the process of moving the bodies from the container to a mortuary Thursday afternoon.

The bodies were discovered early Wednesday morning after the truck arrived at the Waterglade Industrial Park, east of London. The vehicle had traveled by ferry across the English Channel from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet on the River Thames. Belgian police have also opened an investigation.

Truck trailers are parked among stacked cargo containers at the Port of Zeebrugge, in Zeebrugge, Belgium, Thursday, Oct. 24,…

Truck trailers are parked among stacked cargo containers as British police investigate the deaths of 39 people found in a truck container they believe came from Zeebrugge, Belgium, Oct. 24, 2019.

"Until now, we have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. We don't even know which road was followed by the truck in Belgium. We don't know how much time it stayed in Belgian territory. We don't know if it stopped or not. We don't know if the people got into the container or not. So, we have a lot of questions," Belgian federal prosecutor Eric Van Duyse told reporters Thursday.

At this stage, the investigation is centered on tracking the route used by the truck and container. The truck was registered in Bulgaria, but Bulgarian authorities say the vehicle had not entered the country since 2017 and belongs to a company owned by an Irish citizen.

Police searched two properties in Northern Ireland Thursday that are believed to be linked to the investigation. It's not yet clear who owns the container that the bodies were found in.

The incident resembles a similar case in August 2015, when the bodies of 71 migrants were found in a refrigerated truck in Austria near the Hungarian border.

In recent years increasing numbers of migrants have attempted to cross into Britain on ferry routes from Belgium, after French authorities tightened security controls at Calais and destroyed migrant camps close to the port.

Britain's National Crime Agency highlighted Zeebrugge as a potential weak spot in 2016, warning that smuggling gangs are turning away from busier ports such as Dover and targeting smaller freight terminals.

A report from Britain's Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration highlighted the dangers, warning that "groups (of migrants) in unaccompanied, sealed containers, are likely to have been placed there by organized people smugglers. Since they are unable to release themselves, the risks are high, and there have been numerous recorded deaths."

In August 2014, 35 migrants, including 13 children, were discovered in a locked container that had entered Britain from Zeebrugge. They were rescued after port officials heard screaming and banging from inside the container. All the migrants were treated for dehydration. One later died.

The incident this week is the deadliest in recent years involving migrants trying to enter Britain. Postmortems are being conducted on each of the bodies, and attempts are being made to identify the victims, although this is expected to take several days or weeks.

Source: https://www.voanews.com/europe/uk-police-expand-probe-say-39-dead-found-truck-all-china

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