A man was found dead while several people from the Indian sub-continent, including at least seven children, were hospitalised after they were found inside a shipping container at a British port on Saturday.
A homicide investigation has been launched after a man was found dead among the 35 stowaways discovered at Tilbury Docks in Essex.
The group, presumed to be illegal immigrants, was found when workers on the dock heard "screaming and banging" from inside the container as the ship, which had arrived from Zeebrugge in Belgium, was being unloaded, Superintendent Trevor Roe of Essex Police said in a statement.
"All we know at the moment is that we believe them to come from the Indian subcontinent, but it is still early days. It is a homicide investigation from the police point of view at this time," he said. According to police, all of the 34 survivors, including at least seven children, are being treated for dehydration and hypothermia. While all are believed to be from the Indian subcontinent, police said it was too early to confirm their nationalities.
Some reports said they are believed to be of Indian- origin, possibly from Punjab region. They were inside the container for at least 12 hours aboard a P&O commercial ferry. An Essex Police statement said:
"Essex police have launched an investigation following the discovery of a container of people at Tilbury Docks.
"Thirty one people, including adults and children of both genders, were found inside. One man has sadly died and the others have significant health problems.
"Essex police is working in partnership with the Port of Tilbury, UK border force and the East of England ambulance service. A casualty bureau is in the process of being set up." The P&O freight ship, Nordstream, left the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium at 10 pm on Friday and arrived at Tilbury at 6 am on Saturday after an eight-hour crossing.
The stowaways were found inside one of the ship's 64 steel containers, which are 40-feet long and almost airtight when sealed. A "decontamination zone" was set up around the area where the immigrants were found.
However, a spokesperson for Public Health England said there was no sign of any risk from infectious diseases like Ebola. Thousands of illegal immigrants try to make the dangerous journey by sea to Britain every year. They come from a wide range of countries, including war zones like Afghanistan, Eritrea and Syria.