September 23, 2015 / 10:24 AM / 2 years ago

Austria hands over bodies of Iraqis found dead in lorry to families

A truck, in which up to 50 migrants were found dead on a motorway near Parndorf, Austria August 27, 2015, is towed away. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

VIENNA (Reuters) - Out of 71 migrants who suffocated in an abandoned lorry found on an Austrian motorway last month, ten have been identified as Iraqis and four of the bodies have been handed over to their families, Austrian police said on Wednesday.

Discovery of the bodies, crowded into the lorry left in Burgenland in eastern Austria, caused an international outcry, highlighting the growing crisis of refugees heading into Europe by sea and land from war zones.

Police found clues to identify the bodies in the data of mobile phones and the content of bags found among the corpses, which had reached a high degree of decomposition at the time they were found.

Four children died in the lorry, likely to have been left behind by human traffickers, and none of the victims was older than 50, police in the province of Burgenland said in a statement.

Phone calls to Austrian police from relatives, who had lost contact with loved ones on the day the bodies were discovered, also helped the identification process. Some relatives traveled as far as Austria to hand over genetic samples to authorities.

Once a body is identified, relatives can ask authorities to help with transport of the remains to their home countries, police said, adding the relatives of all ten Iraqis had been informed.

The handover of the remains took place in Austria, a police spokesman said, without giving details.

Pieces of evidence allowed hope of identifying several other bodies, the police said, adding the process would take a few more weeks.

Other victims are likely to have come from Afghanistan and Syria, police say, pointing to travel documents found in the lorry.

Five arrests have been made in Hungary in connection with the deaths, and one in Bulgaria.

Reporting By Shadia Nasralla; editing by Ralph Boulton

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