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Spanish metro train derails in tunnel, 41 killed

July 3, 2006

By Ana Perez

VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters) – At least 41 people were killed
when an underground train ran off the tracks and overturned at
high speed in the eastern Spanish city of Valencia on Monday,
officials said.

They said a wheel broke on a curve as the train approached
the Jesus underground station and two train carriages derailed
in the tunnel. Another 47 people were hurt, of whom 12 remain
hospitalized, two of them in critical condition.

Rescue teams worked into the night to recover the dead from
inside wrecked carriages.

“There may be other bodies, forensic police are working
intensively at the accident scene,” said central government
official Antonio Bernabe, who put the number of dead at 41.

Trapped passengers rang emergency services from mobile
phones and 150 people were evacuated from the station platform.
One middle-aged woman, her face blackened by what looked like
soot, grimaced with pain as she staggered away from the
station, her arm around a police officer.

Officials ruled out a terror attack in a country still
shaky from train bombings by Islamist militants that killed 191
people in Madrid in 2004.

“It seems this unfortunate accident was caused by excess
speed and a wheel breaking just before it entered the station,”
government official Luis Felipe Martinez told Spanish radio.

Emergency services set up two field hospitals in tents on
the street and a judge arrived to supervise the removal of
bodies. Hundreds of people converged on the city’s morgue to
help identify victims.

Vicente Rambla, a spokesman for the Valencia regional
government, said such work was difficult as much of the human
remains were “unrecognizable.”

The accident took place days before Pope Benedict was due
to visit Valencia for a ‘World Meeting of Families’ and
pilgrims were already arriving in the Mediterranean seaside
city.

Thousands of yachting enthusiasts were also visiting
Valencia, which is staging warm-up races for the Americas Cup.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero cut
short an official visit to India and will attend a funeral
ceremony in Valencia on Tuesday evening.

FASTER THAN USUAL

Police sealed off streets outside the station and crowds
watched under bright blue skies as emergency crews rushed
injured people into ranks of ambulances.

A 21-year-old student, Cesar Hernandez, said the train
began traveling faster than usual and was shaking from side to
side before the train braked suddenly and the carriages
derailed.

Hernandez kicked the glass out of a door and walked out
into the tunnel.

“There wasn’t much light and I couldn’t see much of what
was on the tracks. I saw people on the ground, but I just ran,”
Hernandez told newspaper El Mundo, adding that he had declined
emergency service offers of trauma counseling.

“I didn’t want psychological help or anything. I just
wanted to see my Dad,” he said.

In September last year, three trains crashed into each
other in Valencia’s Metro system, injuring 16 people.

Spanish consumer group FACUA called for an investigation
into the safety of the Metro’s Line One.

The Pope went to his private chapel to pray for the
victims, state radio said.

“The Holy Father was immediately informed of the tragic
accident in Valencia and followed the dramatic news from that
city with pain and sharing,” said Vatican spokesman Joaquin
Navarro-Valls.

(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome)


Source: reuters



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