Thursday, 25 July 2013

At least 78 killed as train derails in northern Spain

On Wednesday, a high-speed Renfe train, travelling between Madrid and Ferrol, derailed outside Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, leaving at least 78 people dead and 130 injured.

The rail disaster is one of the worst in Spanish history and authorities have said that the death toll could rise.

Reportedly the train had 240 passengers on board.  As the incident occurred, 13 cars derailed – at least four of which caught fire.  

Initially there were rumors of a terrorist attack, but  the Ministry of the Interior has now ruled out that possibility.

A government spokeswoman told Reuters that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is due to visit the scene of the accident, 

"In the face of a tragedy such as just happened in Santiago de Compostela on the eve of its big day, I can only express my deepest sympathy as a Spaniard and a Galician," Rajoy said in a statement. 

La Voz de Galicia reported that Sergio, a witness to the accident said, "I did not suspect an attack of any sort. When the train took the curve, I had the sensation that it was traveling too fast, and then it derailed."

It has since been established that the train was traveling at twice the speed limit. Alvia trains can reach a speed of 250 kilometers per hour while traveling on high speed rails, though they typically travel at 220 kilometers per hour over normal lines. 

According to the Spanish news agency EFE, citing sources close to the investigation, the driver of the train has since admitted to speeding when he hit the bend in the tracks.

Renfe, the company which operates the train, confirms that this is the most serious train crash to happen in Spain in over 40 years and it is the first time a high-speed train has derailed in the country. 

Witnesses at the scene said that bodies were scattered around the scene of the crash, covered in blankets, as emergency services worked to try and rescue people still trapped in the body of the train.

"Neighbors in the area tell Spanish and European media they heard 'an explosion' at the time of derailment", said Actualidad. 

"The wounded are being transferred to nearby hospitals in Galicia from the Clinical Hospital in Santiago as it has exceeded capacity", said Cadena SER radio station.

La Voz de Galicia was relaying accounts from the train's passengers, which claim that one of the cars went up into the air and literally flew over the wall that runs along the train tracks, landing on a road.

RTVE has reported that the region's most important holiday, the Dia de Santiago - which was due to be held on Thursday - has been cancelled. 

Update:  The moment of the crash caught on CCTV: