Truck Full of Decomposing Bodies Found Abandoned on Side of Austrian Highway

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AUSTRIA-EUROPE-MIGRANTS-ACCIDENT
Photo: DIETER NAGL

When Austrian police officers opened the back of a food-delivery truck, abandoned on the side of the highway east of Vienna on Thursday, they found at least 20 decomposing bodies inside. The death toll could reach as high as 50. The dead are believed to be migrants who suffocated.

Authorities are currently searching for the driver. A person mowing grass nearby reportedly called police after noticing "putrid liquid dripping from the back of the white refrigerated vehicle," according to The Guardian. The truck was sold by Hyza, a Slovakia-based company that sells poultry, in 2014. The side of the truck still features a picture of a giant chicken and the phrase, “Honest chicken."

According to the International Organization for Migration, Eritreans, Somalis, Sudanese, Sub-Saharan Africans, Syrians, and Bangladeshis have been rescued on boats headed toward Europe. Some are desperate to escape conflict, others are desperate for work — but given the risks involved in the trip, it is clear that everyone fleeing is uncommonly desperate. 

Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner called on the European Union to move quickly to punish human traffickers. “These are not well-minded helpers,” she said. “They are not concerned with the welfare of the migrants. They care only about profit.” On Wednesday, the bodies of 50 migrants were found in the hull of a ship off the coast of Libya. A Swedish ship rescued 439 people still alive on the overcrowded boat. A day earlier, Austrian authorities arrested a driver who was transporting 34 people in a truck — including ten children. Those inside the truck told police that they could hardly breathe, and had repeatedly asked the driver to give them more air.

At least 2,400 migrants have died traveling to Europe in 2015. In July, a record-breaking 100,000 migrants traveled to the European Union’s borders.

In Vienna, not far from where the truck was found, a summit is being held to try and devise a solution for the migrant crisis. "Unless we have a European answer to this crisis, no-one should be under any illusion that this will be solved," Macedonian foreign minister Nikola Poposki said at the conference. German chancellor Angela Merkel has also said that all countries in the EU need to share the burden of addressing the crisis. After the discovery of the truck today, she said at the summit that she was "shaken by the awful news," and that “this reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find solutions in the spirit of solidarity."

Germany estimated earlier this month that a record-breaking 800,000 migrants would come to the country this year — four times as many as last year.  “We can master this challenge," Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said earlier this month. "I don’t think this will overwhelm Germany. We can handle this.” If the countries don’t come up with a joint solution, many officials have threatened to introduce stringent border controls.