DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Dozens of dead Ethiopian immigrants were dumped on the side of a road in Tanzania after suffocating in a container truck along with many others who survived, in the second fatal human trafficking incident in the country this year.
Up to 45 bodies were dumped along a busy forest highway, the local Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday, and a further 72 were found alive and taken to hospital.
When the driver discovered that there were people dying, he decided to throw them in the forest and run away with his vehicle,” the paper quoted Deputy Home Affairs Minister Pereira Ame Silima as saying.
Police in the in the central region of Dodoma, where the bodies were found on Tuesday, declined to comment.
“I haven’t seen anything like this … There were so many bodies lined up along the road. People in passing vehicles were shocked at the sight,” said local resident Fatuma Amir.
The east African country is a major transit route for migrants, used by smugglers to ferry Somalis and Ethiopians to South Africa and Europe.
The truck was probably on its way to the south-western border with Zambia and Malawi, officials said. Illegal immigrants are often smuggled by local truckers from Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam to border towns.
In January, 20 Somali migrants suffocated to death as they were being smuggled in a cramped container truck through Tanzania, their bodies were similarly dumped on the road.
At least 47 people thought to be illegal migrants from east Africa died when their boat capsized in a lake in neighbouring Malawi last Friday.
Tanzania cops seek death truck driver
Meanwhile Police in Tanzania are hunting a truck driver who let 43 Ethiopian migrants suffocate to death inside his vehicle before dumping the bodies and abandoning survivors, officials said Wednesday.
“A manhunt is going on for the driver of the lorry that abandoned the Ethiopian immigrants by the roadside,” said Luppy Kung’alo, a Tanzanian police spokesman.
A total of 125 people had been inside the truck on Tuesday in central Dodoma province, around 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of the economic capital Dar es Salaam, police said, as they updated an earlier death toll of 42.
Survivors told police that while they were locked inside the truck they had screamed to the driver to stop after several people passed out due to the lack of air, said local police chief Zelothe Stephen.
When the driver finally stopped, he ordered the migrants to dump the corpses and clean the truck, but then roared off leaving the Ethiopians behind in a remote area.
“After they cleaned up, he got in and drove off leaving both the bodies and the survivors,” Kung’alo said.
“People from nearby villages saw the bodies lying next to the road, and later they saw people crossing into the wilderness trying to head into a nearby village,” Stephen said.