AN Alvia train has derailed near Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain, with at least 78 people confirmed dead.
Between 10 and 20 are seriously injured and another 111 were injured but are now out of danger.
A British national was among those injured, the Foreign Office has confirmed. Speaking about the tragic train accident the Foreign Secretary, William Hague said: “I was very saddened to hear of the terrible train accident near Santiago de Compostela in Spain last night. My thoughts are with all those affected and their friends and family.”
Rescuers have finally gained access to one of the carriages after using a crane to remove another that buried it. Ten bodies have been removed from that carriage although it is likely that number will increase.
Train operator Renfe said the train was travelling on the express route from Madrid to the port city of Ferrol on the Galician coast. Sources claim that the train was travelling at 180 kilometers per hour, when the limit on that stretch is 80 kph. Renfe have confirmed the train was running five minutes late.
Renfe and Adif, which is in charge of the tracks, have opened an investigation into the cause of the derailment but no statement will be made until the train’s black boxes are examined.
This is the first fatal accident on a high-speed line in Spain and the most serious rail accident in the last 40 years.
Hospitals in the area have issued urgent appeals for blood donations to help the injured.
The crash happened at 8.41pm local time as the train neared the city of Santiago de Compostela, a popular place of pilgrimage in the northwestern region of Galicia.
State television said eight carriages had derailed and pictures taken at the scene show flames and smoke rising from the front carriage and one carriage that had cleared an embankment and landed near some houses.
Reports state that there were 218 people on board and four crew.
One passenger, Ricardo Montesco, told Cadena Ser radio station: “It was going so quickly … It seems that on a curve the train started to twist and the wagons piled up one on top of the other.
“A lot of people were squashed on the bottom.
“We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the wagons to get out and we realised the train was burning … I was in the second coach and there was fire … I saw corpses.”
The authorities have set up a helpline on 981 551 100.
And Renfe has opened a helpline on 900 101 660 for the families of victims on the derailed train.
Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, will visiting the scene of the accident on Thursday morning.