Grim find in Austria migrant lorry
Thursday, 27 August 2015 16:57
Grim find in Austria migrant lorryImage caption The truck was found abandoned at the side of a busy motorway

At least 20 migrants have been found dead in a lorry abandoned in a motorway lay-by near the eastern border with Hungary, the Austrian authorities say.

The number of dead could be as high as 50, police say. Their bodies had started to decompose.

The lorry has been moved to an undisclosed location for detailed examination.

The grim find comes as a summit focusing on migration takes place in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Tens of thousands of migrants from conflict-hit states in the Middle East and Africa have been trying to make their way to Europe.

Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann said the tragedy showed once again "how necessary it is to save lives by combating criminals and people traffickers".

The vehicle - a refrigerated lorry with Hungarian licence plates - was parked off the A4 motorway between Parndorf and Neusiedl am See, according to Burgenland police chief Hans Peter Doskozil.

Image caption The truck was towed away in a police convoy on Thursday afternoon

Officers had found at least 20 bodies inside the lorry, but there could be 30, 40 or even 50 inside, he told Austrian TV.

The vehicle was found late on Thursday morning but had been there since at least Wednesday, Mr Doskozil said.

The victims had been dead for some time.

At 15:30 local time (14:30 GMT) the truck was towed away, and was due to be taken to a hall in the local area for further examination, Austrian media report.

Only there would the lorry be opened and the recovery of the bodies begin, the authorities said.

Image caption Forensic teams were working at the site on Thursday Image caption The truck previously belonged to a Slovakian grocery company Image caption Investigators were working in very hot conditions

The truck bears the logo of a Slovakian poultry company, Hyza, which said in a statement that the vehicle no longer belonged to the firm - but the new owners had not removed the branding.

Hungarian police are working with Austrian police on the investigation, a spokesman for the Hungarian prime minister said.

Hungary had been informed that the driver was Romanian, the spokesman said.

The lorry in which dozens of people died was sitting in a lay-by on the main motorway between Vienna and the Hungarian and Slovakian borders.

As we drove past, I saw police in white forensic suits combing the area for evidence.

It is hot. The smell of so many decomposing bodies close up must be difficult to take.

In Vienna, Serbia and Macedonia have told the summit on migration that EU must come up with an action plan to respond to the influx of migrants into Europe.

Austria has complained that the EU has failed to address the problem of people entering via the Western Balkans.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday's find "reminds us to tackle the issue of migration with European spirit and find solutions".

A record number of 107,500 migrants crossed the EU's borders last month and on Wednesday police counted more than 3,000 crossing into Serbia.

Meanwhile migrants are continuing to die as they try to reach Europe via the central Mediterranean route. The bodies of at least 51 people were found on Wednesday in the hold of a stricken ship off the coast of Libya.

Migrants' perilous Western Balkan route to Germany

Why is EU struggling with migrant crisis?

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