Up to 50 dead in Austria truck as migrant crisis rages

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Vienna, Aug 28: Austrian police have found the decomposing bodies of up to 50 migrants in an abandoned truck, sparking a cross-border hunt for the people-smugglers responsible for the latest tragedy in Europe's migrant crisis.

The grisly discovery near the Slovakia and Hungary borders came as at least 30 more migrants drowned in the Mediterranean and European leaders again met to try to find ways to handle the tide of people seeking refuge in the European Union.


Austrian police said the vehicle found yesterday on a motorway -- which had the markings of a Slovakian poultry company and Hungarian number plates -- contained between 20 and 50 bodies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Austria for a summit with Balkan leaders on the crisis, said she was "shaken" by the "horrible" news.

"This is a warning to us to tackle this migrants issue quickly and in a European spirit, which means in a spirit of solidarity, and to find solutions," Merkel said.

So far this year, over 2,300 men, women and children have drowned in the Mediterranean after rickety boats operated by people-smugglers capsized. Libya's coast guard said yesterday evening at least 30 more people had died in the shipwreck of a boat carrying around 200 migrants bound for Europe.

"We have recovered 30 bodies so far and rescued dozens of people, with dozens more still missing after a boat carrying around 200 migrants sank off (the western port of) Zuwara," a coast guard official told AFP.

The sinking comes a day after at least 55 bodies were discovered on three overcrowded migrant boats, 52 of whom were found dead of suffocation in the hold of an overcrowded vessel found drifting off Libya.

Italy's coast guard said it had coordinated the rescue of around 1,400 migrants yesterday, bringing to over 4,000 the numbers brought ashore in two days.

Yesterday's tragedy in Austria, however, brought home how dangerous the land journey for migrants through eastern and south-eastern Europe is too. Police said the lorry was leaking "decomposing body fluids".

More details, including the number of dead, were expected today.

"Today is a dark day... This tragedy affects us all deeply," Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told a press conference. Mikl-Leitner vowed to crack down on the people who pocket exorbitant sums to arrange migrants' passage to Europe, and then often leave them stranded en route.


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