All 39 people found dead in a lorry container, which came from Bulgaria, at an Essex industrial estate were Chinese nationals, according to the British media. The victims, which included men, women and a teenager, were discovered at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays in the early hours of Wednesday. The police have arrested the driver of the vehicle for questioning.
The Essex Police said they were called by the local ambulance service on Wednesday early morning after the discovery at Waterglade Industrial Park at Eastern Avenue in Grays area of Essex, south-east England.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "appalled by this tragic incident" and UK home secretary Priti Patel expressed shock at the discovery in Twitter statements.
Officials said the truck came from Bulgaria and entered the UK via Holyhead port in Wales on Saturday. According to Essex Police, early indications are that 38 adults and one teenager have died, with no information of any survivors.
Essex Police Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said officers were trying to identify victims as their enquiries remain ongoing after the arrest of the 25-year-old driver from Northern Ireland.
He said: "This is a tragic incident where a large number of people have lost their lives. Our enquiries are ongoing to establish what has happened. We are in the process of identifying the victims, however I anticipate that this could be a lengthy process.
"We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident who remains in police custody as our enquiries continue," he said.
A police cordon remains in place at the industrial estate where the discovery was made.
"I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with the Essex Police as we establish exactly what has happened. My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives and their loved ones," British premier Johnson said in his statement.
"Shocked and saddened by this utterly tragic incident in Grays. The Essex Police has arrested an individual and we must give them the space to conduct their investigations," Home Secretary Patel said.
The speculation around the discovery has focussed around people trafficking as the route from Bulgaria via the Welsh port of Holyhead into Britain is an unusual one for vehicles to undertake.
(With agency inputs)