HK African stowaways' grim fight for life laid bare

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 July, 2006, 12:00am

Harrowing details have emerged of the desperate struggle of three African stowaways to escape a locked container in the hold of a ship moored off Hong Kong which ended in their deaths.

A week after their bodies were found on board the French-registered container ship Delmas Forbin at its berth in the Pun Shan Shek Anchorage, police have detailed their grim fight for life. One of the three men, who police are now certain boarded the vessel in Pointe-Noire in the Republic of the Congo, was found outside the container, the other two inside.

'When we opened the container all that was inside were the bodies and a smallish piece of metal which it seems they used to punch a small hole in the side of the container,' said a police source.

'They must then have used their bare hands to peel back the metal to make a hole just big enough for a human body to squeeze through. It must have been a desperate effort considering they were starving to death.'

'We are trying to contact representatives of the Congo but have had no luck so far. We don't know who these men were and whether they were reported missing,' the source added. It is expected that their remains will be cremated in Hong Kong, although attempts are still being made to locate Congo officials. Postmortem examinations were unable to ascertain the cause of death and more tests will be done, but it is believed they starved.