25 Jul 2013

‘Scene from hell’: train crash in Spain kills at least 80

CCTV footage emerges of the Spanish train derailment near Santiago de Compostela, in which at least 80 people died. Meanwhile, a local government spokesman warns the death toll could rise.

Warning: the film below shows the train coming off the track. Viewers may find it disturbing

Police have put the driver of a Spanish train under investigation after at least 80 people died when it hit a sharp bend at speed and derailed near the northern city of Santiago de Compostela.

Galicia’s government said the train had two drivers, one of whom is in hospital.

Rescue workers were searching through the smouldering wreckage of the train’s cars on Thursday morning.

In total, 178 people were taken to hospital after the crash. Of those, 95 are still being treated, with 36, including four children, in a serious condition, government health chief said, adding that all the injured had now been identified.

One British person was injured in the crash, the Foreign Office confirmed on Thursday morning.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he would declare three days of official mourning after the crash.

He said: “I will sign a decree to declare three days of official mourning in all Spain,” Rajoy told journalists at the Santiago de Compostela hospital where most victims were taken.

State-owned train operator Renfe said 218 passengers and an unspecified number of staff were on the eight-carriage train during the crash on a relatively new section of track that started operation two years ago about 2.5 miles from Santiago de Compostela.

In what one local official described as a scene from hell, bodies covered in blankets lay next to the overturned carriages as smoke billowed from the wreckage after the disaster.

Firefighters clambered desperately over the twisted metal trying to get survivors out of the windows, while ambulances and fire engines surrounded the scene.

Cranes were still pulling out mangled debris on Thursday morning, 12 hours after the crash.

Xavier Martinez, a photographer who arrived at the scene as rescue workers were removing dozens of bodies, said two injured train passengers told him they felt a strong vibration just before the train’s wagons jumped the tracks.

He said: “We heard a massive noise and we went down the tracks. I helped getting a few injured and bodies out of the train. I went into one of the cars but I’d rather not tell you what I saw there.”

An eyewitness added: “I heard an explosion and when I arrived one of the carriages was already over the road that comes out from there.

“The neighbours all came over but we began to get scared because one of the firemen said it might explode so we retreated but then it was OK so we went back.”

“The scene is shocking, it’s Dante-esque,” said the head of the surrounding Galicia region, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, in a radio interview.

Brit Ben Murden, who lives in the city, added: “[Santiago] is in mourning. There is a saddness here.”

Warning: this film contains scenes that some viewers may find distressing

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.

“The train travelled very fast and derailed and turned over on the bend in the track,” passenger Sergio Prego told the Cadena Ser radio station. “It’s a disaster. I’ve been very lucky because I’m one of the few be able to walk out.”

Another passenger, Ricardo Montero, told the radio station that “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”.

‘Twice the speed limit’

The government said it was working on the assumption the derailment was an accident.

One official source said speeding was a likely cause of the derailment, which occurred as the train reached a curve in the track, but the public works minister said it was too early to draw conclusions on what had happened.

El Pais newspaper cited sources close to the investigation as saying the train was travelling at over twice the speed limit on a sharp curve and Santiago’s mayor said the train was probably going too fast.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was born in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia region, visited the site on Thursday morning. He was due to go to the main hospital later in the day and hold an emergency meeting with local authorities.

“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,” he said in a written statement late on Wednesday.


Both Renfe and state-owned Adif, which is in charge of the tracks, had opened an investigation into the cause of the derailment, Renfe said.

The official source said no statement would be made regarding the cause until the black boxes of the train were examined, but said it was most likely an accident.

“We are moving away from the hypothesis of sabotage or attack,” he said. “It’s too early to be 100 per cent sure but speeding is a likely cause for the accident.”

Santiago mayor Angel Curras told Cadena Ser: “It seems the speed of the train was likely not the right one.”

Clinics in Santiago de Compostela were overwhelmed with people flocking to give blood, while hotels organised free rooms for relatives. Madrid sent forensic scientists and hospital staff to the scene on special flights.

There was no speculation by officials that it might be an act of terror like the commuter train bombing attacks in Madrid in 2004 that killed 191 people.

The city’s tourism board said all festivities, including the traditional high mass at the centuries-old cathedral, had been cancelled as the city went into mourning following the crash.