Spanish Train Crash Kills 77, Biggest Toll Since Madrid Bombing [updated with CCTV video of the accident]

8 years, 6 months ago - July 25, 2013
A train derailment near the northwestern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela killed at least 77 people, the highest death toll in a rail incident since the 2004 Madrid bombing.

The number of fatalities may increase because parts of the wreckage are difficult to access, said a spokeswoman for the high court of the region of Galicia. She requested anonymity citing the policy of the court, which is involved in the legal procedures surrounding the crash.

Photos and video footage of the scene showed several carriages off the tracks and lying on their side, with rescue workers attending to survivors of Spain’s deadliest train incident since bombs set off at Madrid’s Atocha station killed 191 people in 2004. There was no indication the accident was the result of an attack of any kind, the spokeswoman said.

The train carrying 218 passengers on the Madrid-to-Ferrol route derailed at 8:41 p.m. local time as it approached the station on a high-speed track, state-owned rail company Renfe said in an e-mailed statement.

The train was traveling at 220 kilometers an hour, while the speed limit was 80 kilometers per hour, Juarez was cited as saying in El Mundo. El Pais also reported it may have been traveling above the limit, citing unidentified people.

Neither the government nor the train operator have issued official statements saying how fast it was traveling.

Ad-hoc Morgue

Four of the victims died in hospitals while 73 are being transported to an ad-hoc morgue from the site of the crash, the court spokeswoman said.

The train involved in the accident was a high-speed model, separate from the main AVE series, that can run at speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour, according to Renfe’s website.

Spain opened its first high-speed train line in 1992 and currently has the world’s third-largest fast train network, with 2,515 kilometers of tracks, according to figures from the Union Internationale Des Chemins De Fer.

The derailment happened between three and four kilometers away from the station, according to a statement from ADIF, the administrator of Spain’s rail network.

It occurred on the eve of a Christian festival that commemorates St. James, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, in Santiago de Compostela, a city of about 100,000 people.

“The numbers are provisional, but the injured and victim identification are the priority,” Alberto Nunez Feijoo, president of the Galician regional government, said in an interview broadcast on RTVE.

Crash in France

The derailment came less than two weeks after a train crash in central France killed at least six and left many hospitalized.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will travel to Galicia early today, a government spokeswoman said by phone. Rajoy was born in Santiago de Compostela and studied there, according to his profile on the government’s website.

In a statement posted on the Spanish government’s website, Rajoy said the country’s central government is working with the Galician regional administration to “mobilize all its resources” to deal with the emergency situation.

Text by Bloomberg

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