A head-on collision between two trains in southern Italy left at least 25 people dead and dozens more injured, authorities said.
The trains crashed on a single stretch of track through an olive grove between the towns of Corato and Andria in Puglia on Tuesday.
“Tears and pain for the victims and their families. But also a lot of anger. We demand clarity on what happened in Puglia this morning,” said Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi. He cut short a visit to Milan to travel to Puglia.
Three carriages were torn apart by the impact between the two trains, which had been travelling down a single-track line in Italy’s south-eastern Puglia region.
Rescue operators warned the death toll could rise as some of the roughly 50 injured were in serious condition.
Authorities urged blood donors to go to local hospitals.
The crash happened at around 11.30am on a hot summer’s day.
Commander Giancarlo Conticchio of the railway police told Sky TG24: “Surely one of the two trains shouldn’t have been there. And surely there was an error,” he said. “We need to determine the cause of the error.”
“It looks like there has been a plane crash,” said the mayor of Corato, Massimo Mazzilli, who published photos of firemen working through the wreckage.
Luca Cari, a spokesman for the fire brigade, said they recovered a young boy alive from the wreckage.
Each train was made up of four carriages. An aerial image showed carriages smashed and crumpled by the collision, and debris spread out on either side of the track. Four carriages were left standing upright on the rails, a fifth had jumped off the tracks, and the other three appeared destroyed.
A police officer at the crash site said passengers were calling for help and crying. “A horrific scene, unbelievable,” he told Rai News. “The worst scene of my life.”
In the aftermath of the crash a number of survivors sat under olive trees next to the carriages. “I went barefoot under the wreckage. I dug my way out under the metal pieces and was able to save my husband. I saw people in pieces,” one survivor told Telesveva.
One man said he had been listening to music when the crash happened. “At a certain point I found myself on the floor and I immediately got up. I saw the train conductor who was on the floor,” he said, adding that it was five minutes before he was able to escape from the train.
Italy’s transport minister, Graziano Delrio, was due to travel to Puglia and dispatched two government officials to examine the crash site.
Renzi’s comments were echoed on Twitter by the speaker of Italian parliament, Laura Boldrini, who said: “Close to the families of victims and those injured in the head-on train crash in Puglia. I hope that there will soon be clarity on the cause of the disaster.”
The EU’s commissioner for transport, Violeta Bulc, expressed her condolences online and said she was following the situation closely.
The stretch of track is operated by a private regional rail company, Ferrotramviaria, which has not yet commented on the incident.
The last major rail disaster in Italy was in 2009 when a freight train derailed in Viareggio, in the centre of the country. More than 30 people living close to the tracks were killed in the subsequent fire.
Tuesday’s crash occurred north of the regional capital, Bari, in countryside less than 10 miles from coast. Known for its olive oil production in the heel of Italy’s “boot”, Puglia has in recent years become increasingly popular with foreign tourists.
Source: Reuters 13-07-2016