At least 45 illegal immigrants reportedly from Ethiopia have died and 72 others are in critical condition from lack of clean air in a container they were in, apparently on their way to Malawi via Tanzania.
Reports said bodies of the deceased and those who were still alive were discovered yesterday morning by wananchi in Chitego forest.
The deputy Home Affairs Minister, Pereira Ame Silima confirmed the death of the foreigners after visiting the scene yesterday and being briefed by the Dodoma Regional Police Commander, Zelothe Stephen.
The deputy minister said at least 45 Ethiopian nationals died, explaining that the majority were old, while the young survived, though they were very weak.
“It true --- I am at the scene. It is sad that these people have died and it seemed that they died from suffocation, while in a lorry. But we are still investigating the incident and searching for the truck which carried them,” said Silima, adding that the truck had vanished.
“When the driver discovered that there were people dying, he decided to throw them in the forest and run away with his vehicle,” said the deputy minister.
He said it has been a habit for people to be transported in containers because it is Tanzanians who have been helping them to cross from Nairobi, Kenya via Arusha, using illegal routes (panya routes).
The bodies of the deceased were taken to hospital yesterday for examination and efforts were underway to contact the Ethiopian Embassy for further action.
The Dodoma regional Medical Officer, Dr Ezekiel Mpuya confirmed receiving the bodies and some people who had not died.
He said the bodies of the deceased were preserved at the hospital and those who were still alive were being treated.
Dr Mpuya said the hospital expected to receive 25 bodies while 20 other bodies would be sent to Morogoro regional hospital for preservation and examination.
Earlier reports from the scene said the condition illegal immigrants was deteriorating due to starvation.
Before a team of experts, police and others reached the scene, some of the victims were taken for treatment to Chitego dispensary and others were camped at an Anglican Church receiving various services. Reports said they were being fed with porridge, water and receiving medical treatment.
Eye witness who sought anonymity said the illegal immigrants were spotted by some of the villagers who were heading to their farms in the morning.
“We found them completely helpless into the bush after being dropped from the lorry which a container.
Police reports said no one has been arrested in connection with human trafficking.