ATLANTA, U.S.--Police in Tanzania are looking for a truck driver who let 43 Ethiopian migrants suffocate to death inside his vehicle, before dumping the bodies and abandoning survivors, French News Agency (AFP) reported Wednesday.
"A man hunt is going on for the driver of the lorry that abandoned the Ethiopian immigrants by the roadside," Luppy Kung'alo, a Tanzanian police hspokesman, as saying by AFP.
It said 82 other people were in the truck in central Dodoma province on Tuesday as police updated an earlier death toll of 42.
“Survivors told police that while they were locked inside the truck they had screamed to the driver to stop after several people passed out due to the lack of air,” the news agency reported, quoting local police chief Zelothe Stephen.
He said when the driver finally stopped, he ordered the migrants dump the corpses and clean the truck, but then roared off leaving the Ethiopians behind in a remote area.
"After they cleaned up, he got in and drove off leaving both the bodies and the survivors," Kung'alo told AFP. "People from nearby villages saw the bodies lying next to the road, and later they saw people crossing into the wilderness trying to head into a nearby village," Stephen said.
Officials believe the migrants left their native Ethiopia several months ago and were heading south towards Malawi, officials said.
"Preliminary reports have it that the immigrants were destined to Malawi,"Deputy Interior Minister Pereira Silima said Wednesday.
The bodies were taken to a government hospital. Survivors have received medical treatment and are being looked after by the police.
As MaraPost reported last week, police arrested three people after 47 bodies of Ethiopians were recovered from Lake Malawi, which forms much of the border with Tanzania, after their boat capsized.
Malawi police spokesperson Dave Chingwalu said the three were suspected of facilitating “the movement across the lake of these Ethiopians" adding that “we’re working with our Tanzanian counterparts because we believe there were also Tanzanian human traffickers involved."
Chingwalu said police investigations showed that the group of Ethiopians crossed into Tanzania through Kenya and they took advantage of the porous borders between Malawi and Tanzania to cross into Malawi.
East African immigrants, basically economic 'refugees' from the Horn of Africa countries like Ethiopia and Somalia, use uncharted routes in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique to seek jobs in the region's economic hub, South Africa.
United nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Malawi Country Representative Caroline van Buren told MaraPost last Thursday her organisation has been highlighting the dangers of taking to the seas for sometime now.
"Usually migrants move from the Horn of Africa to the south by land but now more and more are taking to the sea," she said. "The dangers are real."
Van Buren said these aren't "spontaneous movements".
"These movements are organised by smugglers who tell the migrants that life is better in South Africa," she said. "We know of incidences were smugglers load up in Mombasa, Kenya, and take the migrants to Mozambique and from Mozambique they try to make their way to South Africa."
Van Buren said the latest fatalities are the highest recorded in recent times.
Some years ago, scores of Ethiopians were discovered in Malawi hidden in an oil tanker on their way to South Africa through Mozambique.
----©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.