At least 77 dead and over 100 injured in horrific high speed Spain rail crash

July 25, 2013 |

WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: At least 77 people have been killed and more than 130 left in a critical condition, including a Briton, after a passenger train derailed and caught fire in one of the worst train crashes in Spanish history.

The high-speed express carrying more than 200 passengers came off the track as it approached a station outside the northern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela.In devastating scenes, scattered bodies could be seen covered in blankets next to the tracks, while rescue workers tried to get trapped people out of the train’s cars, with smoke billowing from some of the wreckage.Firefighters, who called off a strike to join in the rescue efforts, clambered over the twisted metal, while ambulances and fire engines surrounded the scene.

Some passengers were pulled out of broken windows, and one man stood atop a carriage lying on its side, using a pickaxe to try to smash through a window.

There are fears the death toll could rise dramatically after witnesses said all 13 carriages were thrown from the line in the accident, which happened at 8.40pm local time – 7.40pm BST.

Rescue workers were still searching through the smouldering wreckage of the train’s cars this morning in the pre-dawn darkness.

Local hospitals and clinics were overwhelmed as people flocked to the area to give blood, while hotels organised free rooms for relatives of the victims.The crash happened about an hour before sunset after the train emerged from a tunnel and derailed on the curve – sending cars flying off the tracks. At least one caught fire in a scene that Feijoo said was “Dante-esque.”“The train travelled very fast and derailed and turned over on the bend in the track,” passenger Sergio Prego told Cadena Ser. “It’s a disaster. I’ve been very lucky because I’m one of the few be able to walk out.”

One resident of a nearby house was forced to run after hearing “a huge explosion” and seeing a “huge torpedo of dust and noise”.

 

Another witness said: “There are so many people dead here, my God.”Local resident Sergio Prego, added: “The area is a complete mess. A lot of people must have died.”Galician regional premier Alberto Nunez Feijoo described how one carriage had been completed crushed and said the scene was “shocking”.

“We are aware that a British national has been injured in a train crash in Spain yesterday,” a spokesman said.The cause of the crash is not yet known but local media is reporting the train was travelling three times over its limit.The government said it was working on the assumption the derailment, which occurred on the eve of the city’s main religious festival, was an accident.

Sabotage or attack was unlikely to be involved, an official source said, though the devastation will have stirred memories of a train bombing in Madrid in 2004, carried out by Islamist extremists, that killed 191 people.

 

Passenger Ricardo Montesco, who was on board the stricken express, said: “It was going so quickly. It seems that on a curve the train started to twist, and the wagons piled up one on top of the other.“A lot of people were squashed on the bottom. We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the wagons to get out and we realised the train was burning. I was in the second wagon and there was fire. I saw corpses.”The train was en route from Madrid to the naval port city of Ferrol when the accident happened on a bend a short distance from a scheduled stop in the city.

Spanish state train company Renfe said in a statement that 218 people were on board. Many were on their way to attend the city’s annual Apostle Festival celebrating Saint James the Great. The ceremony was called off immediately the scale of the accident was known.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was born in the city, is due to visit the scene this morning.The worst rail crash in Spain is believed to be the Torre del Bierzo disaster in 1944 when three trains collided inside a tunnel.The death toll at the time was estimated to be 200-250 – but studies conducted more recently have put the total loss of life at more than 500.

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