39 victims: Families wait for news in UK truck tragedy

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Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore speaks to the media during a press conference at Grays Police Station in Essex, England after the bodies of 39 people were found inside a lorry in the Waterglade Industrial Park during the early hours of Wednesday morning. Saturday Oct. 26, 2019. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

BEIJING – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday honored the 39 victims who died in a container as the truck driver made his first court appearance after being charged with manslaughter and conspiracy.

Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel traveled to the site in southeastern England to sign a condolence book and place a wreath in remembrance of the victims, whose identities and origins are still shrouded in mystery.

"We mourn those who lost their lives," Johnson wrote. "Our thoughts are with their families far away. In condemning the callousness of those responsible for this crime, we in the government of the United Kingdom resolve to do everything in our power to bring the perpetrators to justice."

He said the tragedy had shocked Britain and the world, praising the victims as innocent people seeking better lives.

British officials initially said the eight women and 31 men who were found in a refrigerated truck container in an industrial park Wednesday, were from China, but it now appears at least some were from Vietnam.

Patel told Parliament on Monday that the nationalities of the victims "are not confirmed at this stage."

She said U.K. border officials would increase operations in Purfleet, the English port where the container arrived, and that Belgium has agreed to allow Britain to send more immigration officers to Zeebrugge, the Belgian port also used by the traffickers.

The truck driver, Maurice Robinson, appeared in Chelmsford Magistrates Court on Monday via video link from prison, but wasn't required to plead innocent or guilty.