July 25, 2013 – Scores Reported Dead as Train Derails in Spain: A high-speed passenger train that was reportedly traveling at more than double the speed limit when it derailed just outside a station in northwest Spain killed at least 77 of those on board, according to judicial sources quoted by news agencies on Thursday.
The train, carrying 218 passengers and 4 crew members, was traveling between Madrid and Ferrol when it derailed at 8:41 p.m. on Wednesday, the Spanish national train company Renfe said in a statement. It was about two miles from the station in the city of Santiago de Compostela.
Citing unidentified sources, the Web site of the Spanish newspaper El País reported that the train had been traveling at 110 miles per hour, but that the speed limit for the stretch of track where the derailment occurred was 50. The train derailed with such force that one car leapt 15 feet in the air and 45 feet from the tracks, the newspaper said.
Seventy-three people died at the accident site in the northern Spanish region of Galicia and four died later, a spokeswoman for Galicia’s Supreme Court said on Thursday morning, according to Reuters. Judges in Spain are responsible for recording deaths.
Renfe said in a statement early Thursday that its technicians and those from Adif, the state-owned railroad company that reports to the Ministry of Public Works, had arrived to help in the rescue, repair tracks and “clarify the causes of the accident.”
Pictures from the scene showed the train lying zigzagged on its side across the tracks. At least one car had been torn open and was jammed on top of another. What appeared to be bodies were covered in makeshift blankets by the side of the tracks as emergency workers struggled to pull the dead and injured from the train’s windows as night fell.
“The road is full of cadavers;” a radio reporter, Xaime López, said on the station Cadena Ser. “It’s striking: you almost can’t even count them.”
Precise casualty figures were not immediately available but El País, citing local officials, said more than 100 people were injured, 10 to 20 of them seriously. The derailment occurred on the eve of an annual religious and cultural festival in Santiago de Compostela that attracts hordes of visitors and pilgrims, according to the region’s tourist board.
The Spanish government is working from the assumption that the derailment was an accident, The Associated Press reported, not an act of terrorism. A total of 191 people were killed in the 2004 bombing by Islamist extremists of four commuter trains in Madrid.
A passenger, Sergio Prego, told Cadena Ser that the train had jumped off the tracks at a curve. “It was a disaster,” he said. “I was lucky.”
Another passenger, Ricardo Montesco, who was in the second car, told a local radio station: “It happened very fast. At a curve, the train started rolling over, some cars were on top of others and a lot of people were trapped at the bottom. We had to get out from underneath the cars and we realized the train was on fire.”
If the initial casualty estimates hold, the accident will rank among Europe’s most deadly rail crashes in recent years. In 2006, an underground metro train in Valencia, Spain, derailed and killed 41 people. Excessive speed on a curve was cited as a factor. (Credits – RAVI SOMAIYA and FRANCES ROBLES for the New York Times).
The Master of Disaster