25 Jul 2013

Dozens killed in Spain train derailment

8:24 pm on 25 July 2013

A train has derailed in north-western Spain killing at least 77 people and injuring many more in what is one of Europe's worst rail disasters.

The 13-carriage train was travelling from Madrid to Ferrol when it came off the tracks near the city of Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region on Wednesday.

The government said it was treating the derailment as an accident, Reuters reports. An official source said sabotage or attack was unlikely to be involved.

A government spokesperson said up to 143 people were injured, and it is possible that the death toll would rise.

Images showed dozens of emergency workers crowded around ruined carriages, with fire-fighters clambering over the twisted metal trying to get survivors out of the windows. Passengers were shown lying on the ground being treated, and there were several bodies near the tracks.

Local authorities have issued an appeal for residents to donate blood to hospitals in the area.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy convened an emergency ministerial meeting late on Wednesday and is due to visit the scene of the accident on Thursday, the BBC reports.

Railway firm Renfe said the train was carrying at least 218 passengers and came off the tracks on a bend about 3km from Santiago de Compostela station. It was on the express route between Madrid and the ship-building city of Ferrol on the Galician coast.

The crash happened a day before a festival in the region. The New Zealand embassy in Madrid will be contacting local authorities to establish whether any New Zealanders have been caught up in the accident.

In 2004, a train bombing in Madrid carried out by Islamist extremists claimed 191 lives.