Dozens killed after Montenegro train plunges into ravine

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At least 39 people were killed and 135 injured in Montenegro after a train left the rails and plunged into a ravine, six miles outside the capital, Podgorica.

As rescue efforts were halted last night because of poor weather conditions and extremely inaccessible terrain, officials warned the death toll may rise. Hospital sources in Podgorica confirmed that they were treating 135 people who were injured in the crash, 75 of them children under the age of 16.

The Interior Minister, Jusuf Kalomperovic, said that "the accident was as a result of a failure of the braking system".

The accident took place about 4pm, when the train - carrying at least 200 passengers in four carriages - crashed at the village of Bioce. Most of the passengers were returning from ski trips to the northern town of Bijelo Polje.

The work of emergency crews was made more difficult after dozens of cars crammed the narrow road to Bioce after the news of the crash reached the public. Relatives had hurried to the spot to try to help their loved ones. Rescue helicopters were used to get to the stricken passengers, many of whom were stranded in the 300ft ravine.

Television footage showed two badly damaged passenger carriages deep in the ravine. Survivors said they felt like "there was no control, no brakes" when the train emerged from a tunnel near Bioce. Many were asleep and were woken by the crash. One survivor with a badly cut head said: "The train simply went wild, out of control. I was fine because I was in a back compartment, those in the front got the worst of it."

Another passenger, Karman Chofu from Hungary, said: "It was horrible, I saw many dead and wounded."

"I had fallen asleep when a loud noise woke me," said Stanislava Bukovic, 60, one of the injured passengers, as she was helped away. "Then I felt something hit my head and lost consciousness. The next thing I knew I was on this stretcher."

At the scene, Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said: "Everything is being done to reduce the number of casualties as much as possible."

Head of Montenegrin railways Ranko Medenica and minister of transport Andrija Lompar resigned immediately. Three days of national mourning have been announced.