KINSHASA (Reuters) - The bodies of nineteen Ethiopians who suffocated in the back of a Zambian container truck were discovered earlier this week by authorities in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a provincial official said on Saturday.

Another 76 Ethiopians were found alive inside the container on the truck when it was stopped just outside the town of Mwenda near the Zambian border on Thursday, the interior minister for the province of Haut Katanga, Ufwa Kasongo Kibali, told Reuters.

Kasongo said it was unclear why the Ethiopians were in the vehicle but U.N.-sponsored Radio Okapi reported that they were migrants heading to South Africa. The survivors were handed over to the Zambian consulate, Kasongo added.

Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, with more than 10 million people unable to feed themselves because their crops and animals have died. The drought and flash floods have displaced tens of thousands of people.

Many pay smugglers to help them reach South Africa, traveling thousands of miles packed into trucks. Some 45 Ethiopian migrants were found dead in June 2012 after they suffocated in a container truck in central Tanzania.

(Reporting By Aaron Ross; Editing by Marine Pennetier and Helen Popper)