It was a typical day for Mozambique immigration officers until a lorry with a blue cargo pulled up.
Officers stopped the truck at a weighbridge in Tete province, along the Malawi-Mozambique highway. The region is located in the northwest part of the country.
As usual, the officers did their routine checks on the lorry. However, this was not just an ordinary freight cargo.
Inside the freight container, was 78 people of Ethiopian nationality. Of the 78, 64 were already dead, and only 14 survived.
The driver and his co-driver are both from Mozambique. They claim their employers promised them money equivalent to ksh 53,000.
Their only task was to transport the illegal Ethiopian migrants from Malawi to South Africa. However, they did not complete their mission with the human cargo getting discovered by Mozambique officers.
Cause of death
Mozambique health officials cited the cause of death as asphyxiation. In this state, the body is deprived of enough oxygen.
Consequently, the body in a bid to survive slowly stops or minimizes body functions. As a result of this, the person collapses losing consciousness and eventually dies.
The freight containers usually do not have ventilation vents causing asphyxiation.
Considering there were 78 people in the container, the oxygen levels dropped to deficient levels. It was a case of survival for the fittest.
Mozambique immigration officers rescued the surviving illegal Ethiopian immigrants. Health officers were present to offer first aid to them.
Other medics offloaded the corpses from the containers. They were wearing masks as preventive measures as well as dealing with the smell of dead human bodies. The medics later took the bodies to morgues in Mozambique.
64 dead bodies were found in a shipping container of a lorry in #Mozambique Tue, with another 14 survivals. All of them were reportedly Ethiopians. The deceased were thought suffocated. pic.twitter.com/jSx96Auohx
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) March 24, 2020
Amélia Direito, Tete province immigration officer, confirmed on their nationalities. He further added the truck driver and his co-driver are now in police custody.
However, it is not yet clear who facilitated the smuggling of the Ethiopian nationals to South Africa. At the time of publishing this article, authorities were not aware of what precisely the immigrants were going to do in South Africa.
The police have, however, began their investigations to uncover more information regarding this matter.
Additionally, the Ethiopian embassy in South Africa has informed families to the deceased of the unfortunate incident.
This is not the first time Mozambique is on the spot for human trafficking. Majority of the illegal migrants to South Africa regularly pass through the country.
Their mode of transportation, however, is not always the best. Most of them end up dying as a result of the deplorable conditions and asphyxiation.