Dozens injured as train derails in Australia

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A high-speed train derailed in eastern Australia today, injuring more than 120 passengers as carriages slammed into trees and ploughed through nearby fields. Medical staff said it was a miracle nobody was killed.

A high-speed train derailed in eastern Australia today, injuring more than 120 passengers as carriages slammed into trees and ploughed through nearby fields. Medical staff said it was a miracle nobody was killed.

The train had 156 passengers and seven crew on board when it came off the tracks about 250 miles north of Brisbane, a Queensland state police spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity.

Many passengers were likely sleeping when they were suddenly tossed around the carriages as they careened off the tracks.

"I was thrown against the window and the awareness of my face smashing against the window pane was the first thing I knew," said 67-year-old Patricia Ponting. "It felt as if we were going along a corrugated surface, then a couple of the kids screamed and then it just came to an abrupt halt."

The cause of the accident was not immediately known, and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) immediately launched an investigation.

"The train is just a twisted wreck, it's an absolute bloody mess," a Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman said. "There are carriages on their side, bent and twisted and there are bogies (wheels) all over the place."

Some carriages almost slid onto the adjacent Bruce Highway, the major east coast road.

"The train has plowed through the dirt like a bulldozer," the unnamed ambulance spokesman told Australian Associated Press. "It's taken out trees, anything that was in its path has gone."

The more than 120 people hurt included 35 people being treated for major injuries and two listed in serious condition, said Dr. John Scott of Queensland state's health department.

"To get away with the small number of (serious) injuries we have, I think is incredible," Scott told Australian television.

The train was traveling from Brisbane to the northern town of Cairns when it crashed and was likely carrying some tourists.

Seven of the nine carriages plowed off the tracks, the police spokeswoman said.

Queensland Rail, the company that operates the train, said two drivers and a crew member were among the injured. The remainder were passengers.

The Tilt Train, so called because it leans into turns so it can run faster, can travel at speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour).

It was not immediately known if the train was traveling at full speed when it derailed.

Queensland Rail's corporate affairs manager Lily Harrison said the track where the accident occurred had been inspected just hours before the crash.

"It actually is one of the best maintained portions of track because it carries fast trains," she said. "The track was actually inspected as late as yesterday afternoon."

Investigators were retrieving a "black box" data recorder to determine its speed and other details, Queensland Rail chief executive Bob Scheuber told ABC radio.

Nine of the injured were flown to hospital by helicopter, and 25 more were ferried to hospitals in ambulances. Dozens more were taken to hospital by coach or treated at a makeshift triage center set up at a nearby train station.

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