Up to 50 dead refugees were abandoned on Wednesday at the side of an Austrian motorway after suffocating in the back of an air-tight refrigerated truck usually used for transporting frozen chicken. The bodies were found on a motorway near the town of Parndorf in eastern Austria in an Hungarian-registered truck, but the driver is believed to be Romanian and there was Slovak writing in the vehicle.
Helmut Marban, police spokesperson, said that police stopped thinking that the parked truck had a mechanical issue, but then they “saw blood dripping” and “noticed the smell of dead bodies.”
Lindsey Hislum, Channel 4 News reported: “Just drove past truck on A4 in Austria with 50 dead refugees inside. Terrible smell of death as we passed.”
The driver is believed to have abandoned the truck after discovering the dead bodies in the back, but he is currently missing.
The truck, with all the bodies still inside, was later taken away by Police to a secure location so forensic examination and a full investigation into the tragedy has been launched.
The heat of the hot summer day affected the bodies and made establishing their identities and even the exact number of dead migrants difficult.
The truck is believed to have travelled from Serbia, through Hungary and into Austria when it was abandoned. It is thought that the migrants travelled from Serbia across the Hungarian border and into Austria.
Reports have said that the truck used to belong to the Slovak chicken meat company Hyza, part of the Agrofert Holding, which is owned by Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis, but was allegedly sold in 2014 and their logo had failed to be removed by the new owners.
The tragedy comes as Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and Balkan leaders met in Vienna to discuss how to tackle the biggest European migration crisis since the Second World War.
Chancellor Merkel responded to the tragedy by saying: “We were all shaken by the horrible news that up to 50 people died… although these were people coming to seek safety. This reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find solutions in the spirit of solidarity.”
This year a record number of people have tried to reach the EU by sea and land in an attempt to flee conflict in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Austrian Foreign Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said: “Human smugglers are criminals. Those who still think that they are gentle helpers of refugees are beyond saving.”