Toll rises in Spain train derailment; reports say up to 60 dead

A train operating on high-speed tracks in Spain derailed and crashed late Wednesday, and news reports put the death toll as high as 60. It was the second serious train derailment in Europe this month.

The train was en route from Madrid to the northwestern coastal town of Ferrol when the accident occurred near the train station in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of the Galician region. Television images showed rail cars overturned and upended, and bodies arrayed beneath blankets near the tracks as rescue workers and paramedics worked to locate and save survivors.


The Associated Press put the death toll of the Spanish crash at 40 or more, and said the accident was the worst in Spain in decades. Reuters said at least 56 had died and 70 were injured, attributing the information to the head of the Galicia region, Alberto Nunez Feijoo.

"The scene is shocking, it's Dante-esque," he said in a radio interview.

USA Today said as many as 60 were killed.

The Wall Street Journal said the accident appeared to be caused by excessive speed, citing state television. The Journal identified the train as an express, "of a type that runs on high-speed tracks but slightly slower than the highest-speed models." It quoted a spokesman for Spain's Interior Ministry as saying,  "Everything right now points to an accident," and there was no immediate evidence of terrorism.

A problem with a switching mechanism was blamed for a derailment in France this month in which six people died. In Canada, a runaway oil train derailed and crashed in a lakeside town; the death toll was ultimately put at 47.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was due to visit the site of the derailment Thursday morning, the Spanish government spokeswoman said.

The BBC quoted one witness, Ricardo Montesco, describing how the train carriages "piled on top of one another" after the train hit a curve.

"A lot of people were squashed on the bottom," he said, speaking to Spanish Cadena Ser radio station. "We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the wagons to get out and we realized the train was burning.... I was in the second wagon and there was fire. I saw corpses."

Santiago de Campostela, where the derailment occurred, is a historic town best known as the terminus of the Way of St. James, a pilgrimage route that dates to medieval times and was recently popularized in the movie "The Way." It is about 60 miles south of Ferrol, the terminus of the rail route.