'A scene from Dante': Galicia festival becomes a national day of mourning
After one of the worst train crashes for decades, some residents in the Galicia region now wait anxiously for news of loved ones, whilst others grieve for those they have lost
Thursday 25 July 2013
Friday was meant to be a holiday in Spain’s Galicia region, but instead hundreds of grieving relatives spent the day anxiously seeking news of loved ones or identifying corpses after the country’s worst train crash in decades.
Hearses were still ferrying bodies from the wreckage in which, at the last count, 78 people had died and a further 120 injured, to a sports centre in the city of Santiago de Compostela. Locals began the grim round of traipsing from the improvised morgue to the local hospital and a reception centre.
“You’ll have to contact the appropriate funeral parlour, we can’t help,” a policeman told a man with a missing relative. “Look, they can’t be sure. It’s tough, but the fact is several bodies are not in one piece.”
Paramedics and psychologists milled around outside a reception and information centre set up in an industrial park, and escorted relatives – some bandaged and walking with difficulty – past a police cordon.
Dozens of emergency workers combed over the tracks near the wreck of an intercity train as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ordered an official investigation into why the train went off the rails in the village of Angrois, on a sharp bend 4 km from Santiago, at 8.41pm local time on Thursday evening.
25 July is the feast of St. James the Apostle, the patron saint of Santiago and a traditional holiday in Galicia, which is usually celebrated in keeping with a region proud of its identity and whose inhabitants speak a language distinct from Spanish and claim Celtic ancestry. This year, however, authorities cancelled all festivities and declared three days of national mourning, while minutes of silence were held up and down Spain.
Massive cranes loomed overhead in Angrois to hoist the twisted and overturned carriages – some charred and gutted – which still lay beside the tracks.
The train was travelling so quickly it leaped up an embankment about 15 metres high and flattened the village band stand, eyewitness Isidoro Castaño said. Mr Castaño was attending a residents’ association meeting just 20 metres from the tracks when he heard the crash.
“It was an indescribable noise, somewhere between an earthquake and an explosion, and the ground shook,” he said. “We ran out and saw a scene from Dante. Carriages were burning, there was a thick, black mushroom cloud and we could hear people screaming. The emergency services had yet to turn up, so we struggled to get the passengers out and laid them on the ground. Some were bleeding, some dead.”
Like many locals, Civil Defence worker Francisco Fernández ran to the tracks as soon as he heard the crash and had worked through the night to help victims. Neighbours ran to the scene with planks to help open up train carriages.
“It was awful. There were people strewn all over the place, cut to pieces. Some without legs, some headless,” he said. “We’re not finished yet. We’ll keep working until the job is done.”
María Carral, a housewife in Angrois, said the police had trouble believing that a train had been derailed when locals first called for help.
“They thought we were joking, so I told a lad to say, ‘For Christ’s sake, there’s bodies lying on the ground’. Then more people showed up and began to call,” she said.
This was the worst train accident in Spain since a collision killed 86 people in 1972. Officially, 78 died in a collision in 1942, although that was during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco when censorship was severe, and later research suggests the true death toll was between 500 and 800.
On Thursday, the train derailed just as it was leaving a stretch of track recently upgraded for high-speed trains designed to run at 250 km/h, and joining a conventional track meant for much slower travel before entering the station in Santiago.
Local media reported the train was travelling at up to 190 km/h, and Angrois residents said the speed limit on the bend was 80 km/h.
Professor Roger Kemp, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, agreed with the estimates.
“From on-line maps, it appears that the track at this point has a curve radius of about 500 metres. UK practice would be that the speed limit round such a curve would be between 70km/h and 100km/h depending on how much the track is banked. For a conventional European train, the overturning speed on a curve of that radius would be around 170km/h,” Professor Kemp said in a statement.
“The big question is why the train was running at more than twice the speed limit.”
Engine drivers’ union leader Juan José García suspected safety mechanisms had not been installed on all sections of the track running from nearby town Ourense to Santiago.
“The facts need to be confirmed,” Mr García told state television. “But let’s say that between Ourense and Santiago there is a safety mechanism, but 4 km from Santiago that mechanism doesn’t exist.”
Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again
Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood
The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 35,000 walrus gather on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Jennifer Lawrence nude photos leak: More celebrities allegedly targeted as third wave of hacked images released
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Former Tory donor Arron Banks ups his Ukip donation to £1million following William Hague 'nobody' comment
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
- < Previous
- Next >
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...
£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...
£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...