SOFIA, Bulgaria — At least 18 people including a child were found dead in an abandoned truck near Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, officials said on Friday.
The truck was transporting timber and carrying migrants hidden in a compartment, the country’s interior ministry said in a statement, adding that the truck was found near the village of Lokorsko.
Thirty-four migrants, including five children, were rushed to hospitals in Sofia, and some were in critical but stable condition, the country’s health minister, Asen Medzhidiev, said.
“There has been a lack of oxygen to those who were locked in this truck.” Mr. Medzhidiev told reporters. “They were freezing, wet, they have not eaten for several days.”
The police were seeking to identify the truck’s drivers, who had fled, according to the interior ministry.
Bulgaria is on a route used by 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 using elaborate networks of smugglers.
In 2015, three Bulgarian truck drivers were arrested and later charged with the deaths of 71 migrants found beside an Austrian highway.
In December, Bulgaria was blocked from joining the E.U.’s passport-free Schengen zone by Austria and the Netherlands over security and rule-of-law concerns, but the country will seek to gain entry again this year.