(Al Jazeera Media Network) At least 18 people have been found dead in Bulgaria in an abandoned truck near the capital Sofia, officials said.
The truck was transporting timber and carrying refugees and migrants hidden in a compartment, the country’s interior ministry said in a statement on Friday.
Health minister Asen Medzhidiev said 34 survivors, including five children, were rushed to hospitals in Sofia and some were in critical but stable condition.
“There has been a lack of oxygen to those who were locked in this truck. They were freezing, wet, they have not eaten for several days,” Medzhidiev told reporters.
The truck was found along a highway near Sofia.
The driver was not there, but police discovered the passengers in a secret compartment below a load of timber.
Authorities did not immediately give the nationalities of the people found.
Police were seeking to identify the truck’s drivers, who had fled, according to the interior ministry.
Bulgaria is situated on a route used by refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan to enter the European Union.
Most do not stay in the country, but look to move on to richer countries in Western Europe, often via networks of smugglers.
In 2015, three Bulgarian truck drivers were arrested and later charged with the deaths of 71 migrants found beside an Austrian motorway.