, SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Jul 25 – A train hurtled off the tracks in northwestern Spain on Wednesday killing up to 50 passengers and injuring many more as carriages crumpled into each other in a smoking wreckage of tangled steel.
Four carriages overturned in the smash, smoke billowing from the remnants, as bodies were lain out under sheets along the tracks.
The wagons piled into each other and folded up like an accordion. One was ripped apart by the force of the smash, one of its ends pushed upwards into the air.
Disaster struck as the train carrying 218 passengers and four staff was about to enter Santiago de Compostela station in the northwestern region of Galicia.
“We are not going to be able to give life to many people, between 45, 47, 50 people,” Galicia’s regional president Alberto Nunez Feijoo told public television TVE.
Francisco Otero, who was inside his parents’ home just beside the section of the track where the accident happened, told AFP he “heard a huge bang. As if there had been an earthquake.”
“The first thing I saw was the body of a woman. I had never seen a corpse before. My neighbours tried to pull people who were trapped inside the carriages with clubs and they eventually got them out with a hand saw. It was unreal,” he said.
The accident happened at 8:42 pm (1842 GMT) “for unknown reasons”, said a spokesman for state railway operator Renfe.
The train had left Madrid and was heading for the northwestern town of Ferrol as the Galicia region was preparing celebrations in honour of its patron saint James.
A witness told radio Cadena that carriages overturned several times on a bend and came to a halt piled up on each other.
Public television TVE said the train may have derailed because it was speeding at the time of the accident but officials would not confirm that this was a possible cause.
“We are working to determine the cause or causes of the accident, at this moment I can’t give that information,” Feijoo said when asked if speeding might be the cause.
Emergency services workers in red jackets tended to injured passengers lying on a patch of grass as ambulance sirens wailed in the background.