Trains collide in Poland

2012-03-04 08:18

Warsaw - Rescue workers toiled overnight to pull survivors from the wreckage of a head-on train crash in Szczekociny, southern Poland, which left 14 people dead and sixty injured late on Saturday.

"The death toll in this huge train catastrophe has risen to 14," Poland's Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki said, after rushing to the crash site early on Sunday.

"It appears there are no more conscious people in the wagons," Cichocki told reporters at the scene.

Sixty people were hospitalised with about half reported to be in a serious condition, rescue officials said.

"This is the worst catastrophe in years," Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters upon his arrival at the gruesome scene. "I'm afraid the death toll will rise to 15," he added.

Trains on the same track

Ukrainian nationals were reported to be among the injured, while French and Spanish citizens were also on the trains, but apparently not injured in the crash.

A total of 350 passengers were travelling on board the two trains which collided head-on at 21:00 as they were travelling on the same track, according to Poland's PKP railways.

One train was en route to the southern city of Krakow from the capital Warsaw, while the other was travelling to the capital from the south-eastern city of Przemysl.

An investigation was swiftly launched into the reasons behind the fatal crash as the rescue operations continued in the early hours.

Images of the wreckage broadcast by the TVN24 commercial news channel showed tonnes of mangled metal, with reports indicating that three carriages had jumped the tracks along with the locomotives from both trains.

"We heard a deafening noise and we were hurled out of our seats," an unnamed survivor told the PAP Polish news agency. "We saw crushed bodies pinned beneath seats and we saw parts of bodies inside and outside the train wagons," the survivor said.

"It was terrifying. The scale of destruction is huge," one of the first firemen on the scene told the PAP.

Another survivor told the TVN24 news channel of dead bodies as well as people still alive but pinned down under twisted metal.

Fireman Grzegorz Widawski described the conditions at the crash site as "very challenging."

"The wagons are in very bad shape and it's difficult to get to the people trapped inside," he told the PAP.

A total of 450 firemen and 100 policemen were involved in the rescue efforts, emergency response authorities said.

Saturday's accident is the worst rail catastrophe in Poland since 1990, when 16 people were killed in a collision between two trains in the Warsaw suburb of Ursus.

The country's worst train accident occurred in 1980 in Otoczyn, near the northern city of Torun when 67 people died and 62 were injured in a collision between a passenger and a freight train.

Read more on:    poland

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