'This catastrophe goes beyond the imaginable'

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The Independent Online

Dismembered bodies entangled in the metal wreckage of train carriages, amputated legs and arms scattered on station platforms, thousands of people, many of them schoolchildren, fleeing in panic.

Dismembered bodies entangled in the metal wreckage of train carriages, amputated legs and arms scattered on station platforms, thousands of people, many of them schoolchildren, fleeing in panic.

"It was butchery on a brutal scale," Juan Redondo, an inspector for Madrid Firefighting Department, said. "This catastrophe goes beyond the imaginable."

In possibly the biggest terrorist attack in a European Union nation, at least 186 people were killed and around 1,000 injured in ten explosions.

The dead and severely injured were taken away on stretchers. The wounded with cuts and bruises sat and wept helplessly on sidewalk curbs.

Mr Redondo said that at El Pozo station, east of central Madrid, where two bombs tore through a double-decker commuter train, he saw at least 70 bodies on the platform.

"It looked like a platform of death," he said, adding that one body had to be picked off the train station's roof. "I've never seen anything like it before. The recovery of the bodies was very difficult. We didn't know what to pick up."

The blasts struck as trains brought hundreds of thousands of people to work. Ambulances continued to make their way back and forth from the station more than seven hours later.

Residents in nearby houses were warned to stay off balconies, but thousands of passersby gathered, many frantically phoning family friends to make sure they were all right.

"People were stunned after the first blast," said 26-year-old survivor Anibal Altamirano of Ecuador who was just about to board a train at Atocha. "We could see smoke. There were people all over the ground like in a disaster movie. Others were crushed against the walls.

"After a second explosion, people dropped everything, bags and shoes and ran, many trampling on others," he continued. "People didn't know which way to go. Some even went into the train tunnels without thinking other trains could be coming."

Beatriz Martin, a Madrid Emergency Service doctor who tended to victims at El Pozo said, "On many bodies we could hear the person's mobile phones ringing as we carted them away.... The smell was sickening ... a mix of burning and body parts."

TV images showed that near El Pozo station, bombs blew the roof off one train car, while another had both its sides blown away.

Shards of twisted metal were scattered by the train tracks at Atocha station where an explosion severed a train in two.

"I saw legs and arms. I won't forget this ever. I've seen horror," said Enrique Sanchez, an ambulance worker returning from Santa Eugenia station where another train car was blown wide open.

Another ambulance driver, Oscar Romero, described how the bodies were meshed in the train wreckage at Atocha. "There were two carriages in pieces with bodies underneath. They had to get a crane to get those bodies out. There were people of all ages....

"We had to pick up bits of people and put them on stretchers. It's the worst I've ever seen in this job."



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