Migrants Austria
Migrants, who have been picked up within Austria near the border with Hungary, wait at a makeshift camp in Nickelsdorf, AustriaReuters

Austrian police averted another migrant tragedy at the last minute when they intercepted a people smuggler's lorry. Inside they found 26 refugees, including three children, who were suffering from dehydration and in critical condition.

"It was a very close call," David Furtner of the Austrian police told Austrian news agency APA. "Medical staff told us they would not have made it much longer."

Austria has seen a heatwave during the last week. Through the week, daytime temperatures reached highs of 29°C (84.2°F), and today peaked at 33°C (91.4°F).

The truck was stopped in the town of St. Peter am Hart, in the Braunau district near Germany. The driver, a 29-year-old Romanian national, has been arrested, Reuters reported. The vehicle was carrying refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The three children have been taken to a local hospital, accompanied by their parents. It was not immediately clear where the truck had set off from and for how long the migrants had been packed inside its back, exposed to the extreme summer heat.

The incident came days after the decomposing bodies of 71 refugees were found inside another lorry found abandoned on the hard shoulder of a highway near the eastern town of Parndorf. Four people suspected of being part of the smuggling ring responsible for the tragedy were arrested in Hungary, and have been remanded into custody by a court.

Tens of thousands asylum-seekers fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have travelled from Greece to Macedonia and then on to Serbia and Hungary, hoping to reach Germany and other northern EU states in recent months. Hundreds of thousands of have reached the borders of the 28-nation bloc this year, and more than 2,000 have died trying – most drowning while attempting to cross the Mediterranean on rickety boats.

This week Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees announced that refugees from Syria would receive automatic asylum when reaching the country. The decision means Germany is now ignoring the EU's Dublin Regulations – rules for judging who may receive asylum and who may not.