In pouring rain, they crossed the last few metres into Austria in the early hours of Saturday morning. The waiting Austrian police in their heavy waterproofs were taken aback by the refusal of the Hungarian bus drivers to take their passengers the last two kilometres over the border and on to the Nickelsdorf train station where they were expected, and where a Vienna-bound train was waiting.
Instead, the officers had to guide the way with torches, helpless to offer shelter to the tired clusters of men, women and children coming through the puddles at the side of the motorway in the darkness.
From 3am until early afternoon, some 120 blue buses had been and gone, disgorging an estimated 4,000 refugees. Some residents of the small border town of Nickelsdorf were at their windows, others out on the streets with blankets and umbrellas, offering hot drinks.
A Red Cross tent offered respite from the rain, with medics and volunteers working shifts while people waited for their turn to board special half-hourly bus and train services, laid on by the Austrian Federal Railway, to Vienna and Salzburg, and from there to Munich.
“We have treated a two-day-old gunshot wound. We’ve seen eye injuries caused by stun grenades. We’ve seen children with severe bruises,” Red Cross spokesman Andreas Zenker said.