DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) — Hearing faint pounding and moaning, an Irish trucker discovered the bodies of eight would-be refugees and five people clinging to life in his cargo Saturday. Police said they would mount a Europe-wide hunt for the human traffickers believed responsible.

It was the first mass fatality involving asylum-seekers in Ireland, which in recent years has been targeted by rings that smuggle people from poorer countries. Police said they weren't sure of the victims' nationalities but were interviewing a 17-year-old survivor who spoke Turkish. Among the dead were three small children.

The deaths highlighted the great risks that many people run in their efforts to evade police to enter western European countries illegally. Like others, Ireland has tightened its security at ports of entry and toughened deportation laws to try to stem the human tide.

"Those involved in the cruel trade of trafficking in human beings have perpetrated yet another atrocity on the victims of their greed," said Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

Last year, 58 Chinese people were found suffocated in the back of a truck at the southern English port of Dover.