64 bodies of Ethiopian citizens were discovered in the early hours of Tuesday, 2nd April 2020. Authorities found the bodies of these individuals crammed inside a sealed shipping container at a checkpoint in Tete in North-West Mozambique. The driver and his associate had loaded a blue container onto a truck in Tete province. Police and Immigration authorities stopped the truck at the Mussacana weight bridge in Tete. At first, the truck driver did not want to stop the vehicle when asked.
The provincial migration authorities at Tete, however, forced the driver to stop the truck after they heard some banging coming from the inside of the container on top. Officials at Tete, bordered by Malawi on one side and Zimbabwe on the other, stopped the truck en route to Malawi and checked the container.
64 Bodies Discovered
Upon opening the container, the officials found a few people sitting surrounded by dead bodies. A total of 78 people were inside the container. Only 14 people, however, were alive among the 78. Sixty-four of the remainder were lying lifeless on the floor of the container. The police immediately arrested the truck driver and his assistant (both Mozambicans) at Tete.
The survivors in the container informed the authorities that they were Ethiopians headed to South Africa. Not a single man on the container, however, was carrying any identification. Medical workers wearing blue face masks and white plastic aprons showed up moments later at Tete. The health workers provided basic first aid to the survivors in the container and helped offload the corpses.
Later on, in the day, authorities took the 14 survivors among the 64 to a local hospital for treatment. The 14 received treatment for severe dehydration and exhaustion. Meanwhile, other government officials took the 64 corpses to a local morgue.
Report to Local Reporters
A provincial immigration spokeswoman gave a statement to local reporters at Tete. Amélia Direito told reporters that authorities at Tete found 64 bodies dead inside a container. Additionally, she said the officials on site discovered a total of 14 individuals alive inside the container.
The spokeswoman further stated that the daily temperatures at Tete were currently about 34C (93F). Due to this, the spokeswoman added the presumed cause of death for the 64 was suspected to be asphyxiation (oxygen deprivation). Direito, however, stated that the cause of death remained unknown so far to authorities.
In her report, the spokeswoman further revealed that all the 78 people present within the container were Ethiopian men headed for South Africa.
Report by Police Spokesman
A police spokesman Orlando Mudumane also present at Tete, later on, gave his statement. In his statement, he confirmed the police had detained two people in connection to the incident. The police captured a driver and one of his associates contracted to ferry the people.
The driver contracted informed the police that his employer had guaranteed 30,000 meticais (about $500, 460 euros) to transport the men. The police spokesman informed the reporters that the authorities had launched a manhunt to capture the intermediary who expediated the illegal entry of the Ethiopians into Mozambique.
The police and immigration authorities assured citizens that they would work to establish the identities of the people who died on the container. Additionally, the two sectors of government expressed their sadness due to the tragedy. Moreover, they extended a message of strength to families and friends of the 64 deceased individuals.