Refugees found dead in Austria truck likely Syrians: Police
Austrian police officials say over 70 people found dead in an abandoned lorry near the Hungarian border were most likely Syrian refugees fleeing the deadly crisis in their homeland.
“Among these 71 people, there were 59 men, eight women and four children including a young girl one or two years old and three boys aged eight, nine or 10,” police spokesman Hans Peter Doskozil said at a news conference on Friday in the eastern town of Eisenstadt near the area, where the tragedy was uncovered.
He added, “There was also a Syrian travel document found; so of course our first assumption is that these people were migrants, and likely a group of Syrian migrants. We can rule out that they were Africans.”
“We cannot however yet say whether they were all Syrian nationals,” Doskozil commented.
He further noted that the time and cause of deaths have yet to be determined but there is a “certain probability” that the group died of suffocation in the vehicle.
Doskozil went on to say that Hungarian police arrested seven people late Thursday over the gruesome tragedy. A Bulgarian national of Lebanese origin, who is believed to be the owner of the lorry, along with two drivers remained in custody, but the rest were later released.
The drivers are thought to be “low-ranking members… of a Bulgarian-Hungarian human-trafficking gang,” Doskozil said.
Austrian road maintenance workers first found the 7.5-ton refrigerated lorry. The abandoned vehicle had Hungarian number plates and the markings of a Slovakian poultry products maker.
The workers noticed decomposing body fluids dripping from the car as they informed the police.
The state of the corpses and an overpowering stench in the truck suggested that those inside had died long before. Forensics experts worked all night to clear out the vehicle.
The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has reportedly claimed more than 240,000 lives up until now.
The United Nations says the militancy has displaced more than 7.2 million Syrians internally, and compelled over four million others to take refuge in neighboring countries, including Jordan and Lebanon.