At least 14 killed in Bologna train crash

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The Independent Online

A crowded Italian inter-city train collided with a freight convoy in thick fog on a stretch of single-track near Bologna yesterday, killing at least 14 people and injuring up to 80.

A crowded Italian inter-city train collided with a freight convoy in thick fog on a stretch of single-track near Bologna yesterday, killing at least 14 people and injuring up to 80.

Hundreds of firemen, police, ambulance and other emergency workers came from as far away as Lombardy and the Veneto region to rescue passengers from the wreckage outside the Bolgnina di Crevalcore station. The dead included nine passengers, and a number of the injured were in a critical condition last night.

Work continued into the evening illuminated by arc lights. A police spokesman said: "The carriages are all piled up on each other. As men are making their way through the tangled wreckage, they are finding more corpses and injured people, some them critically." Two rescue helicopters were unable to land because of fog.

Some of the worst injuries were caused by heavy metal rods carried by the goods train. Many of the rods pierced the front passenger carriage of the train, which was travelling from Verona to Bologna.

The crash took place about 15 miles from Bologna in heavy fog which reduced visibility to some 50 yards. A spokesman for Italfer, the state railway management company, said several carriages were derailed.

The passenger train was running three minutes late and the driver apparently failed to observe a stop light. As a result the train careened through points that would have shunted the goods train on to a secondary track at the local station.

The crash was one of the worst in Italy's chequered railway history. In November 1980, 20 people were killed near Curinga when a passenger train again collided with a freight train.

One of the worst post-war accidents happened at Murazze di Vado in Bologna province in April 1978, when two express trains collided, killing 48 people. And in 1980 more than 80 people were killed when a terrorist bomb attributed to neo-fascist extremists exploded at Bologna's main railway station. Another bomb exploded in a carriage on the Rome to Brennero express in August 1974, while it was travelling overnight through Emilia Romagna, killing 12 people and injuring 50 others.

Within the past six years, there have been a dozen fatal accidents on railway lines, claiming some 30 lives.

The minister for infrastructure and transport, Pietro Lunardi, ordered an inquiry into the latest crash. But political controversy over its causes has already begun. Mr Lunardi claimed that previous centre-left governments were partly to blame for dragging their feet over meeting long-discussed plans to introduce a second track on the line.

The head of Italy's Greens, Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, said: "The problem of railway security is now a national emergency." He said the government of the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, had become dangerously distracted from ordinary safety issues by grandiose projects such as a bridge to link Sicily and the mainland. "While one sees dreams of mega works and bridges, funds for the existing lines, security and staff who serve millions of citizens daily are heavily cut," he said.

An opposition spokesman for transport affairs, Ugo Boghetta of the Communist Refoundation party, said: "The Bologna to Verona stretch is an international line but still is single track. Together with local institutions we have been trying to get it doubled for years but all resources were diverted to high-speed train projects."