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Up to 20 Vietnamese feared among 39 UK truck dead

2019-10-26 HKT 21:14
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  • British police initially said all of the 31 men and eight women found inside the truck were Chinese nationals. Photo: AP
    British police initially said all of the 31 men and eight women found inside the truck were Chinese nationals. Photo: AP
As many as 20 Vietnamese citizens are feared among 39 people found dead in a truck in Britain this week, families and community organisers said on Saturday, as one of the alleged truck owners denied involvement in the tragedy.

British police initially said all of the 31 men and eight women found early Wednesday in a refrigerated lorry in an industrial park in Grays, east of London, were believed to be Chinese.

Four people have been held over the incident, which has shocked Britain and shed light on dangerous trafficking routes into Europe taken by undocumented migrants.

Several Vietnamese families now fear their relatives, who may have been carrying falsified Chinese passports, are among the victims.

Britain-based community group VietHome said it had received "photos of nearly 20 people reported missing, age 15-45" from Vietnam, a popular source for smuggled migrants looking to better their lives in the UK.

Nguyen Dinh Gia said on Saturday he got a call from his son two weeks ago saying he was planning to go to Britain where he hoped to work in a nail salon.

His 20-year-old son Nguyen Dinh Luong had been living in France and said the journey would cost 11,000 pounds.

But Gia received a call several days ago from a Vietnamese man saying "Please have some sympathy, something unexpected happened," he recounted.

"I fell to the ground when I heard that," Gia said. "It seemed that he was in the truck with the accident, all of them dead," he added.

A 26-year-old Vietnamese woman Pham Thi Tra My is also believed to be among the victims after her family received a text message from her hours before the migrants were discovered.

"I'm sorry Mom. My path to abroad doesn't succeed. Mom, I love you so much! I'm dying because I can't breathe," she said in the message confirmed by her brother Pham Manh Cuong.

He received another message from her a few hours later saying: "Please try to work hard to pay the debt for mummy, my dear," according to a text sent at 4:28am Vietnam time on Wednesday.

The family, who live in a bare home with a corrugated tin roof in central Vietnam, have asked Vietnamese officials to help find the missing woman.

The truck carrying the migrants arrived in Purfleet on the River Thames estuary on a ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge just over an hour before ambulance crews called the police at 1:40am. (AFP)