Bodies of 71 migrants found decomposing in abandoned truck
VIENNA: Austrian police found the decomposing bodies of 71 migrants in an abandoned truck on Thursday, sparking a cross-border hunt for the people-smugglers responsible for the latest tragedy in Europe’s migrant crisis.
The news came as European leaders met in Vienna to discuss the growing humanitarian crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “shaken” by the “horrible” news.
Three people believed to be part of a human smuggling operation were arrested over the discovery last night.
Investigators found a Syrian travel document, indicating that at least some of the dead were refugees fleeing violence in Syria. The 71 included eight women and four children, the youngest a girl between one and two years old, the others boys aged 8 to 10.
Officials believe the migrants suffocated in the truck.
The bodies were found as at least 30 more migrants drowned in the Mediterranean
Austrian police said the vehicle, found abandoned in the emergency lane of a motorway, had “decomposing body fluids” emanating from it.
When they opened it, there was a powerful stench of human decay and the bodies lay piled on top of each other, crammed into a small rectangular space in a sea of tangled limbs.
It was the latest tragedy in a year that has seen tens of thousands of people risking all to seek a better life or refuge in wealthy European countries.
“This reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find solutions in the spirit of solidarity,” Ms Merkel said.
Migrants fearful of death at sea in overcrowded and flimsy boats as they flee turmoil and war in the Middle East have increasingly turned to using a land route to Europe through the Western Balkans. But the discovery of the bodies in the truck on the main highway connecting Vienna to the Hungarian capital of Budapest showed there was no truly safe path.