x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

'Carriages tumbled off the tracks like dominoes' in Spanish train crash

Two investigations have been launched after the worst railway crash in Spain since 1944 kills at least 80.

Rescuers, forensics crews and police officers work at the site of a train accident near the city of Santiago de Compostela.
Rescuers, forensics crews and police officers work at the site of a train accident near the city of Santiago de Compostela.

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain // A train that hurtled off the rails and smashed into a security wall was going so fast around a bend that carriages tumbled off the tracks like dominoes, killing 80 people.

Spain's government said two probes have been launched into the cause of Wednesday night's crash near a Christian festival city in north-west Spain. The interior ministry raised the death toll to 80 in what was Spain's deadliest train wreck in nearly seven decades, while 95 remained in hospital, 36 in critical condition and four of them children.

Carriages piled into each other and overturned in Wednesday's crash. Smoke billowed from the wreckage of mangled steel and smashed windows as bodies were laid out under blankets along the tracks.

One of the drivers of the train faced questioning by police, a court official said yesterday.

The state railway company, Renfe, said it was too early to determine the cause, but there have been widespread reports that the train was travelling well in excess of the 80kph speed limit when it came off the tracks near Santiago de Compostela.

El Pais newspaper reported that the driver had admitted to railway officials moments after the crash that he had been travelling at 190kph.

"The tragedy that happened in Santiago de Compostela seems to be linked to excessive speed, but we are still waiting on the judicial investigation and the one carried out by the investigation commission from our own ministry," the secretary of state for transport, Rafael Catala, was quoted as saying by the Cadena Ser radio station.

The train came off the tracks on a curve at 8.42pm on Wednesday about four kilometres from the station in the city, the destination of the famous El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, which has been followed by Christians since the Middle Ages.

The town hall of Santiago de Compostela called off concerts and firework displays that had been planned as part of the festivities in honour of its patron saint.

Hundreds of local residents and tourists attended a nearly two-hour mass in the city's imposing cathedral to pray for the victims.

The disaster was the worst railway crash in Spain since 1944.