Austrian officials now say more than 70 bodies, thought to be migrants, were in an abandoned lorry found on a motorway.
They originally estimated that between 20 to 50 people died in the vehicle, found near the Hungarian border. Police discovered the decomposing bodies on Thursday morning after being sent to investigate the dumped lorry on the A4 motorway heading towards Vienna.
The local police chief said it appeared those in the vehicle had been dead for one and a half to two days. The victims were probably already dead when the vehicle crossed into Austria from Hungary, authorities said.
The vehicle was towed to a customs building with refrigeration facilities in Nickelsdorf on Thursday. Forensic teams worked through the night to examine the bodies.
Austrian police are expected to reveal the exact toll at a news conference on Friday.
The lorry is thought to have left Budapest in Hungary on Wednesday morning
The Austrian and Hungarian police are working together to try and find the driver.
The vehicle bears the logo of a Slovakian poultry company, Hyza, which said it no longer owned the vehicle – but the buyers had not removed the branding.
Hans Peter Doskozil, police chief in the Burgenland province where the lorry was found, said it was a refrigerated vehicle – not the typical choice for people smugglers, he added.
The lorry, which has Hungarian number plates, is understood to have left Budapest on Wednesday morning.
Tens of thousands of migrants from conflict-hit states in the Middle East and Africa have been trying to make their way to Europe in recent months.
Some of them pay large sums of money to people smugglers to get them through borders illegally.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Austria for a summit with Balkan leaders on the migrant 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,” Mrs Merkel said.
RipplesNigeria… without borders, without fears
Join the conversation
Support Ripples Nigeria, hold up solutions journalism
Balanced, fearless journalism driven by data comes at huge financial costs.
As a media platform, we hold leadership accountable and will not trade the right to press freedom and free speech for a piece of cake.
If you like what we do, and are ready to uphold solutions journalism, kindly donate to the Ripples Nigeria cause.
Your support would help to ensure that citizens and institutions continue to have free access to credible and reliable information for societal development.
SPECIAL REPORT: Illegal miners degrade Ekiti community, engage in child labour
The activities of illegal miners in a community in Ekiti State have caused degradation of the environment, as miners engage...
SPECIAL REPORT: Inside the illegal trading of forest woods in Cross River community
“With a N20,000 bribe, an external buyer can influence the youth in host communities , Cross River State, to cut...
SPECIAL REPORT: Enugu govt watches as waste takes over state, threatens public health, environment
In this report, Arinze Chijioke looks at how delays in evacuation of waste in Enugu State encourages indiscriminate waste disposal, its health implications, and how...
INVESTIGATION: NDDC awards N1bn road contract to poultry farm
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in what appears a breach of procurement laws, awarded a contract worth N1.028 billion...
FEATURE… Hard job, low income: Agony of Nigerian commercial drivers
Amid increase in fuel price over the years, coupled with bad roads and insecurity in Nigeria, many commercial drivers have...