At least 78 people were killed and scores injured in a train wreck in north-western Spain on Wednesday. One local official described the horror of the scene as “Dantesque.” The wreck happened near the city of Santiago de Compostela.
Reports say all eight carriages of the Madrid to Ferrol train derailed causing the deaths and injuring more than 140 people, some seriously.
According to reports, the train may have been travelling too fast, more than twice the speed limit when it came around a curve. Official reports were also quoted as saying speed was the probable cause of the wreck.
A local newspaper, citing sources involved in the investigation, said the suspect in the train derailment was speed. Santiago’s mayor reportedly said the train was going too fast and came off its tracks when it hit a curve. However, the public works minister said more investigation needs to be done before conclusions can be reached.
Ricardo Martinez, a 47-year old baker from Santiago de Compostela was at the scene of the rescue.
“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,” he told reporters.
Media reports quoted officials describing the train wreck site as a scene from hell. Fire fighters and rescue workers desperately crawled over the mangled cars in an effort to reach survivors. Reports say many bodies lay next to the twisted metal amid the smoke billowing from the wreckage.
The government said it was working on the assumption the derailment was an accident. The train was operated by state rail company Renfe. Reports say there were 247 people on board.
The train was travelling to the city as preparations were underway for the legendary festival of Saint James. According to reports, thousands of Christian pilgrims from across the world attend the festival.
The city went into mourning and all festivities were canceled in the pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela, including the traditional High Mass at the centuries-old cathedral, according to reports. Seven days of mourning were declared in the Galicia region.
Julio Gomez Pomar , the president of the Spain’s railway firm Renfe, stated there were no technical problems with the train.
“The train had passed an inspection that same morning. Those trains are inspected every 7,500km… Its maintenance record was perfect,” he told a local radio.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was born in Santiago de Compostela, quickly arrived at the scene of the accident.
I want to express my affection and solidarity with the victims of the terrible train accident in Santiago,” he said.
Reports say this is the worst train crash in Spain since 1944.
According to reports, the judge conducting this investigation is in possession of the black box from the train.
By Perviz Walji
Sources: BBC News, Reuters,Mail Online