Amtrak crash: US train was 'doing twice the speed limit when it derailed' in Philadelphia leaving at least seven dead

Philadelphia mayor confirms that search-and-rescue effort is 'very active' and that several people are still missing

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Investigators into the rail crash that left at least seven people dead and several unaccounted for are said to be focusing on the likelihood that the train was travelling at more than 100mph – twice the recommended speed for the section of the track it was on – when disaster struck.

The Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the search-and-rescue effort was “very active” and that several people were still missing after the train travelling between Washington DC and New York crashed in his city on Tuesday night.

“We will not cease our efforts until we are certain that we have gone through everything,” the Mayor told reporters.

Mr Nutter would not speculate on the cause of the accident, despite a report saying that an initial investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had concluded the Amtrak train was moving at more 100 mph on a portion of track where the speed limit is fixed at 50mph.

Reuters said the NTSB has said it was also focusing on the condition of the track and equipment, crew training and the performance of the five-person crew, in addition to the train’s speed.

Amtrak train 188 derailed while rounding a bend. Up to 243 people are thought to have been on board.

Mr Nutter said that more than 200 people had been transported to hospital to be treated for injuries. Several people remained in critical condition. President Barack Obama said that he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the crash.

“This is a tragedy that touches us all,” Mr Obama said. “As we work to determine exactly what happened, I commend the fire, police and medical personnel working tirelessly and professionally to save lives.” Officials have recovered the so-called black-box recorders from the train and are analysing their contents. The train’s engineer – in effect, the driver – has been questioned about the crash, but has not made a formal statement.

This year has seen a flurry of major passenger rail accidents, including a rush-hour collision between a commuter train and an SUV that killed six people in New York, a deadly train-truck crash in California, and an Amtrak crash with a tractor-trailer in North Carolina.

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