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A toddler and three young boys were among the dead in Austrian truck

Police believe the people inside were already dead when the truck crossed into Austria.

Updated 12.06pm

AUSTRIAN POLICE HAVE confirmed that 71 people perished in a truck found on the side of a motorway yesterday.

It is understood that they suffocated to death in the refrigerated vehicle.

Four to the victims were children – a girl aged about one or two and three young boys, aged eight, nine or 10. Eight were women. The remaining 59 were men. Police spokesman Hans Peter Doskozil says they are all most likely Syrian.

The lorry was found on a motorway near the borders with Slovakia and Hungary and police believe the people inside were already dead when the truck crossed into Austria.

Three people have now been arrested are being held in Hungary. It is thought to be the owner of the truck and two drivers.

Austria Migrants Source: Ronald Zak

A Syrian travel document was found, indicating that at least some of the dead were refugees fleeing violence in Syria, though it wasn’t clear if some were for elsewhere.

Austria Migrants Source: Ronald Zak

The truck, which had Hungarian number plates and the markings of a Slovakian poultry firm, was parked at the side of the motorway for an extended period of time.

Austria Migrants People light candles in front of the police station in Eisenstadt, Austria Source: Ronald Zak via Press Association

Austrian and Hungarian police have launched a joint investigation.

The discovery comes as a summit on migration takes place in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Read: Merkel vows zero tolerance for migrant hate – as 55 bodies found on boats>

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