DO THANH, Vietnam – The last remains of the 39 Vietnamese who died while being smuggled in a truck to England last month were repatriated to their home country on Saturday.
Photos by the official Vietnam News Agency showed the arrival at the Hanoi airport of 16 bodies and seven urns, which had been flown from London.
They were loaded into ambulances on a foggy morning for a trip to their hometowns in several provinces in northern and central Vietnam.
The bodies were found Oct 23 in the English town of Grays, east of London. Police said the victims were aged between 15 and 44. While no cause of death has been officially established, the circumstances suggested asphyxiation.
The 31 men and eight women are believed to have paid human traffickers for their clandestine transit into England. Several suspects have been arrested in the UK and Vietnam.
Shortly after noon on Saturday, the body of one victim, 19-year-old Bui Thi Nhung, arrived at Phu Tang church in the village of Do Thanh.
More than 100 villagers and family members waited for the body’s arrival at a highway leading to the village. They held white flowers, standing by the side of the road as the ambulance carrying the body passed.
After 15 minutes at the church, the mourners moved to Nhung’s home nearby. One of Nhung’s nieces held her portrait to lead the procession.
Nhung’s coffin was placed in the middle of the living room of the one-story house, with the family weeping by the sides. Relatives and neighbors came into the home to place incense.
A funeral will be held for Nhung at her home on Sunday, followed by a ceremony at the church before the burial.
An initial batch of 16 bodies were handed over to their families on Wednesday, and funerals were held the following day.
The impoverished villages the victims hailed from have largely been left out of the economic development that has turned urban centers in Vietnam such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi into boom towns, sending many on a risky journey looking for a better life abroad.