At least 77 people have been killed and more than 130 injured including one Briton after a packed Spanish passenger train derailed on a bend last night.

All eight carriages of the Madrid to Ferrol train came off the tracks near the city of Santiago de Compostela

The train was traveling at 220 kilometers (140 miles) an hour, while the speed limit was 80 kilometers per hour, it was reported in Spanish newspaper El Mundo. El Pais also reported it may have been traveling three times nearly the speed limit.

The accident is the worst train accident in 30 years and television footage showed one wagon pointing upwards into the air with one of its ends twisted and disfigured.

 
Horrifying: At least 77 people have been killed and more than 130 injured including one Briton after a packed Spanish passenger train derailed on a bend last night

Horrifying: At least 77 people have been killed and more than 130 injured including one Briton after a packed Spanish passenger train derailed on a bend last night

 

 
Derailed: All eight carriages of the Madrid to Ferrol train came off the tracks near the city of Santiago de Compostela

Derailed: All eight carriages of the Madrid to Ferrol train came off the tracks near the city of Santiago de Compostela

Tragic: Emergency crews work to help those who were injured in the Spanish train crash which happened just outside Santiago de Compostela

Tragic: Emergency crews work to help those who were injured in the Spanish train crash which happened just outside Santiago de Compostela

 
Emergency: Rescue workers carry victims on stretchers away for treatment. More than 70 bodies are reported to have been removed from the wreckage

Emergency: Rescue workers carry victims on stretchers away for treatment. More than 70 bodies are reported to have been removed from the wreckage

Another carriage that had been severed in two could be seen lying on a road near the track.

 

State-owned train operator Renfe said in a statement that 218 passengers and an unspecified number of staff were on board at the time of the accident.

Renfe said the derailment happened at 8.41pm local time on a high-speed section that was inaugurated two years ago.

 

After the crash, bodies were seen covered in blankets next to the tracks and rescue workers tried to get trapped people out of the train’s carriages, with smoke billowing from some of the wreckage.

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

TVE showed footage of what appeared to be several bodies covered by blankets alongside the tracks next to the damaged train wagons and rescue workers entering toppled carriages through broken windows.

 

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.

 

As casualties were taken to hospitals in Santiago and two other cities in the region, authorities appealed for people to donate blood.

 

Neighbours responded to calls from the police to bring blankets and sheets to the scene along with bottles of water.

WORST SPANISH TRAIN CRASH FOR DECADES

The Spanish train crash is the worst the country has experienced since a terrible three-train accident in a tunnel in Leon province in 1944. Due to heavy censorship at the time, the exact death toll for the Leon disaster has never been established. The official figure was given as 78 dead, but it is thought that as many as 250 may have been killed.

There was another serious accident in Spain 1972 when a Madrid to Cadiz express collided head-on with a local train on the outskirts of Seville in the south west of the country. A total of 77 people died, with more than 100 injured.

The Madrid train bombings of March 2004 produced a death toll of 191- but this was a terrorist outrage and not an accident. There were 10 explosions aboard four commuter trains, with the attacks being directed by an al Qaida-inspired terrorist cell.

The latest incident comes less than two weeks after six people were killed and scores injured in a train crash just south of Paris.

Recent bad train crashes in Europe include one in February 2010 in Buizingen in Belgium which claimed the lives of 18 people, a September 2006 crash of a magnetic levitation train on a test track in the Emsland area of Germany which killed 23 people, and a derailment of a packed train outside the Montenegro capital of Podgorica in January 2006 in which 46 people died.

In Britain, no passenger has been killed in a train accident since 84-year-old Margaret Masson from Glasgow died following the Virgin West Coast Pendolino train derailment at Grayrigg in Cumbria in February 2007.

In terms of deaths, the worst rail crashes in recent times in the UK were outside Paddington in west London in October 1999 when 31 people died in a two-train collision after one of them had gone through a red light, and at Clapham in south London in December 1988 when 35 people were killed in a three-train crash.

Britain’s worst peace-time crash was in 1952 at Harrow and Wealdstone in north west London when 112 people died in a three-train disaster.

The worst rail disaster in Britain was at Quintinshill near Gretna Green in Scotland in 1915 during the First World War in a multiple-train smash in which a troop train caught fire, killing more than 220 people.

 

As darkness fell, generators and emergency lighting were brought in to help the rescue teams.

Alberto Nunez Feijoo, president of the region of Galicia, described the scene as ‘Dante-esque’.

One of the passengers, Sergio Prego, said: ‘The train travelled very fast and derailed and turned over on the bend in the track. It’s a disaster. I’ve been very lucky because I’m one of the few to be able to walk out.’

Another passenger, Ricardo Montero, said: ‘When the train reached that bend it began to flip over, many times, with some carriages ending up on top of others, leaving many people trapped below. We had to get under the carriages to get out.’

Lidia Cannon, who previously lived in the city and was visiting for the local fiesta celebrating St James, said she saw a woman who had lost a foot as a result of the train crash.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We heard a big bang, like, we thought it was an air crash, I thought it was a car crash, other people thought it was a bomb. It was very, very loud, the noise.’

Ms Cannon said people went to help and told of one man’s experience of visiting the crash site.

She said: ‘He couldn’t cope with it. He said he was there 20 minutes but he took out a man that was asking for his wife and his wife was inside, dead. A boy was looking for his girlfriend and she was inside the train, dead.

‘He was taking out people that had mobile phones in their pockets ringing all the time. He couldn’t cope with it because policemen and doctors and everyone was crying and he had to leave.

‘I saw a woman who had lost one foot. But instead of crying or shouting or whatever because of the pain she was looking very, very serious. They were carrying her away and she had her sight, her eyes, were looking to one point – she was in shock.’

Miguel Morado, journalist at local newspaper La Voz de Galicia said: Everything points to inadequate [sic] speed – the train driver who survived the crash, when he was being rescued didn’t know that people had died, and admitted going too fast with the train…

‘He gave a figure he said he was going at 190 km/h – this is part of a network where the speed limit is 80.

‘Although it’s clear that it was human error, that the driver made a mistake, there’s also the question of the line in that part of the network.
Galicia is distant from the centre, it’s never been well connected with Madrid… The people who made the decisions were too hasty.’

 

Officials said they believed the crash was an accident but declined to offer more details, saying an investigation was under way into the cause.

 

Renfe said that it – and track operator Adif – were collaborating with a judge who has been appointed to probe the accident.

 

Passenger Ricardo Montesco said: ‘It was going so quickly . . . it seems that on a curve the train started to twist, and the carriages piled up one on top of the other.

 

The accident occurred near the station in Santiago de Compostela, 60 miles south of El Ferrol.

The train, which belongs to the state-owned Renfe company, was not an AVE high speed train, but it was a relatively luxurious version that uses the same track as Spain’s fastest expresses.

 

It was Spain’s deadliest train accident in decades. In 1944, a train travelling from Madrid to Galicia crashed and killed 78 people. Another accident in 1972 left 77 dead on a track to south-western Seville, according to Spanish news agency Europa Press.

 

King Juan Carlos and prime minister Mariano Rajoy, a native of Galicia, both offered their condolences.

 

Mr Rajoy said he would visit the site later today.

 
Terrifying:

Terrifying: A general view of the train crash. The incident happened as Catholic pilgrims converged on Santiago de Compostela to celebrate a festival honouring St James, the disciple of Jesus whose remains are said to.

The incident happened as Catholic pilgrims converged on Santiago de Compostela to celebrate a festival honouring St James, the disciple of Jesus whose remains are said to rest in a shrine.

The city is the main gathering point for the faithful who make it to the end of the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route that has drawn Christians since the Middle Ages.

The feast day festivities were cancelled, town hall spokeswoman Maria Pardo told Spanish National television TVE.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who comes from the Galicia region, was planning to set out for Santiago.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: ‘I was very saddened to hear of the terrible train accident near Santiago de Compostela in Spain last night.

‘My thoughts are with all those affected and their friends and family.

‘The British Embassy team in Spain are working closely with the Spanish authorities as they respond to this tragedy.

‘We know that one British citizen was injured in this accident and the embassy has been providing consular support.’

Keith Barrow, associate editor of International Railway Journal, whose editorial offices are in Falmouth in Cornwall, said today: ‘Spanish railways’ safety record is pretty good.

‘Major accidents have been extremely rare. A lot of money has been poured into the system and passenger numbers were rising before the 2008 recession, which has hit Spain particularly badly.

‘There has been a big reduction in fares lately to try to get more passengers to use the railways. A number of lines have been electrified and there are plans to allow private companies to operate services.’

Mr Barrow said the train involved in the Santiago accident was a Class 730 high-speed train.

He went on: ‘Investigators will want to recover the data recorder from the train’s cab so they can establish just what happened.

‘People in Spain will obviously be shocked by what has happened. It’s the worst crash they have had in many years. But I don’t think people will be put off travelling by train.’

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