"Stowaways" rescued from sea container at Rotterdam port arrested in possible drug case
Nine people who were rescued from a sea container they were hiding in at the ECT Delta terminal at the Rotterdam port may have been involved in a drug trafficking scheme. The men, aged 18 to 23, called authorities themselves asking that they be freed because they were having trouble breathing, Rijnmond reported.
Emergency services responded en masse, deploying at least six ambulances. The men were freed from the container at around 12:50 p.m. on Monday.
They were hiding in a container filled with tree trunks which absorbed the oxygen, causing the distress, a police spokesperson told ANP. The nine suspects were examined by paramedics and found to be in good health, Rijnmond wrote.
They were then kept in custody and transferred to the port police. The telephone used to call emergency services was not initially found.
"That could be because we haven't found the phone yet or that we're missing a person. But in theory it could be that a call was made from another container and we discovered this container by accident. So just to be sure we are till investigating whether there is a second container," police told Rijnmond. It later emerged that the phone was recovered from the container in which the men were hiding.
Authorities are concerned it was a "hotel container" where people hiding in a sea container are brought to the port by truck, and used to remove drugs stashed in other containers at the same location. It has become increasingly common, police told reporters at the scene of Monday's incident.
No details were released about when they stowed away in the container, or how long they were trapped inside it.