Police activity at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry container on the industrial estate, Oct. 23, 2019. (Photo/Agencies)
The Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom said it has contacted British police on the Essex truck incident and could not confirm that the victims were Chinese nationals.
The statement on Thursday night said the embassy had sent a team led by the minister-counselor in charge of consular affairs to Essex and they have met with the police.
The UK police said they are verifying the identity of the deceased, according to the statement.
The 39 people found dead inside a truck container in the UK on Wednesday were suspected to be all Chinese, according to the police investigating the case.
Essex Police said that eight of the dead were women and 31 were men, "and all are believed to be Chinese nationals."
The police said the man arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of murder remains in custody.
The police also issued an update on what they now know about the truck's movements.
The tractor unit of the truck was now known to have entered the UK via Holyhead in North Wales on October 20, having traveled there from Dublin.
It then collected the trailer, which had traveled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to the port of Purfleet in the county of Essex, England, at around 00:30 local time on October 23. The cab and trailer left the port shortly after 01:05 local time on Wednesday.
Emergency services arrived shortly before 01:40 local time on Wednesday at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, to the east of London, after the bodies were discovered.
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in London said: "We read with heavy heart the reports about the death of 39 people in Essex, England. We are in close contact with the British police to seek clarification and confirmation of the relevant reports."
The Chinese foreign ministry later said on its Weibo social media account: "The staff of the Chinese embassy in the UK is driving to the scene to verify this situation."
One driver from Lithuania spoke to CGTN near the Essex depot and said that containers and refrigerated trailers are sealed when drivers pick them up.. and drivers don't check the cargo inside. This means drivers can become unwittingly caught up in human trafficking.
Essex Police said: "The lorry has since been removed from the industrial park to allow the next stage of our investigative process to be conducted in peace, and to give the utmost dignity to those within the trailer as we prepare for a coroner's post-mortem examination.
"Each of the 39 people must undergo a full coroner's process to establish a cause of death, before we move on to attempting to identify each individual within the trailer. This will be a substantial operation and, at this stage, we cannot estimate how long these procedures will take."
The police force added: "We will continue to work with partners and other law enforcement agencies to establish exactly how these 39 people lost their lives in such an untimely way. This process will be complex and lengthy, as well as incredibly challenging for all those involved, but we will not stop until we get answers for the loved ones of those who have sadly died."
Updated 07:00 BJT