herald

Friday 9 December 2016

More than 70 bodies believed to be found in abandoned truck found on motorway

Police investigates a truck that stands on the shoulder of the highway A4 near Parndorf south of Vienna, Austria, Thursday. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Police investigates a truck that stands on the shoulder of the highway A4 near Parndorf south of Vienna, Austria, Thursday. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

More than 70 bodies are now believed to have been in the abandoned truck found on a motorway in eastern Austria, according to reports.

It had been thought it contained up to 50 bodies, officials  today said there were more than 70 decomposing bodies piled inside.

Eight women and four children, one of them an infant, were among the dead. Three men suspected of human trafficking were taken into custody in Hungary.

“This should be a wake-up call, a warning that we need to have a European solution quickly,” Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “shaken by the awful news”.

SOLUTIONS

“This reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find solutions in the spirit of solidarity,” Ms Merkel said.

She went on to criticise Ireland’s failure to take a large number of refugees during the crisis.

“Some countries, one has to say, are not taking part in the common European asylum policy, like the UK, Ireland and Denmark,” she 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 motorway connecting Vienna to the Hungarian capital of Budapest showed there is no truly safe path.

Thousands cross from Greece daily with the help of smugglers, aiming to reach Germany, Austria or Sweden and apply for asylum.

The human traffickers may charge thousands of dollars per person, only to stuff them into trucks and vans so tightly that they often cannot move – or breathe.

In the latest tragic case, the state of decomposition made establishing the identities of the dead difficult.

The truck was towed to an air-conditioned location near the border with Hungary where authorities would open it once temperatures had cooled enough to begin removing the bodies, a police spokesman said.

Officials found the driverless truck shortly before noon on the motorway shoulder about 25 miles east of Vienna.

Then they saw blood dripping from the cargo area and noticed the smell of dead bodies.

Police quickly realised there were no survivors.

Information from Hungarian police indicated the truck was east of Budapest early Wednesday and entered Austria overnight before being abandoned.

The condition of the bodies indicated the victims may have died before the truck entered Austria.

The truck apparently used to belong to the Slovak company Hyza, which sells chicken meat and is part of Agrofert Holding.

The new owners did not remove Hyza’s logos, and the company said it had nothing to do with the truck now.

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