As many as 50 corpses were found in a parked truck in Austria while another overcrowded boat of migrants sank off Libya, deepening a crisis that is overwhelming Europe, Reuters reported.
The abandoned refrigerated truck was found by an Austrian motorway patrol near the Hungarian border on Thursday, with fluids from the decomposing bodies seeping from its back door.
“One can maybe assume that the deaths occurred one and a half to two days ago,” Hans Peter Doskozil, police chief in the province of Burgenland, told a news conference.
He said “many things” indicated the migrants were already dead when the truck crossed the border.
Police said it could take until Friday to determine the exact number of victims, which they thought were more than 20 and could be as many as 50.
They suspected those responsible were already out of the country.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a summit on the West Balkans in Vienna: “We are of course all shaken by the appalling news. This reminds us that we must tackle quickly the issue of immigration and in a European spirit — that means in a spirit of solidarity — and find solutions.”
A security official in the Libyan city of Zuwara said several hundred people had been on board a boat that sank off the coast on Thursday.
Some appeared to have been trapped in the hold when it capsized.
“Some 100 illegal migrants have survived,” the official said, adding that rescue operations were continuing. Those on board had been from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco and Bangladesh, he added.
Even before the latest incidents, the International Organization for Migration estimated 2,373 people had died so far this year while trying to reach Europe by sea, and 3,573 in the past 12 months.
On Thursday, the Swedish coastguard ship Poseidon arrived at the port of Palermo on the Italian island of Sicily with 52 corpses found on a boat off the coast of Libya on Wednesday.
Most of the victims had been trapped in the hold and died of asphyxiation, according to survivors.
Poseidon disembarked 471 migrants who were among the more than 3,000 rescued by several ships on Wednesday.
“There are thousands and thousands of dead lying in the Mediterranean whose bodies will never be found, and no one is paying attention,” said Palermo’s Mayor Leoluca Orlando.
Hundreds of thousands, many fleeing war in countries such as Syria and Libya, have made it into the European Union.
Germany alone expects 800,000 asylum-seekers this year; Hungary is building a barbed wire fence along its border with Serbia.
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