Police investigate the truck inside which 71 migrants perished. (Ronald Zak / AP)

Austrian authorities report that four children — three boys ages 7 to 10, and a toddler girl — were among the passengers whose bodies were found in east Vienna on Thursday in the back of an abandoned truck, locked inside with no ventilation in the summer heat.

The grisly finding is just the latest development in a series of horrific ends people fleeing war and privation in their home countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have met this year. On Thursday it was reported that at least 150 people were believed to have drowned at sea off the western coast of Libya after a fishing boat sank.

Officials are seeking those responsible for the deaths of the migrants in the truck. The United Nations refugee agency reports that as many as 310,000 people have sought to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe in 2015, up from 214,000 in 2014.

The New York Times reports:

At the root of many of the deaths are the ruthless practices of human traffickers who overload boats, cars, trucks and vans with those willing and able to pay the high cost to cross the Mediterranean or European borders.

The Austrian authorities believe that is what happened to the migrants who were discovered in the truck on Thursday.

Officials had initially said they expected to recover as many as 50 corpses from the truck, which was abandoned in the emergency lane of a highway southeast of Vienna, where the authorities believe it had been for 24 hours, after arriving from south of Budapest.

But once the authorities were able to open the rear hold of the vehicle, said Hans Peter Doskozil, director of police in the eastern Austrian state of Burgenland, they found more corpses than they had expected. They are now scrambling to identify the victims and have set up a hotline for anyone seeking information about a missing family member.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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