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Train collision kills at least 10 in eastern Germany, probe underway

01-31-2011 07:31 BJT

HORDORF, Germany, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- German investigators were busy finding clues on Sunday at the scene of a head-on train crash that killed at least 10 people and injured 40 others Saturday night in an eastern state, while some officials suspected that drivers' carelessness had possibly triggered the tragedy.

A passenger train and a freight train collided at around 10:30 p.m. local time (2130 GMT) Saturday not far from the village station of Hordorf in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. By Sunday afternoon, ten bodies had been found and over 40 people were confirmed injured, police said.

Police spokesman Joachim Albrecht told Xinhua that several of the injured were still in critical condition, and the death toll could rise.

After visiting the site, State Governor Wolfgang Boehmer told reporters that human error could be one of the possible causes that led to the deadly crash.

"It seemed that one stop signal was neglected by one of the trains. It's not normal that two trains were running on the same track," Boehmer said.

Xinhua reporters saw in the early morning on Sunday that two severely damaged white-and-blue carriages of the passenger train lay on one side on the frosty ground four or five meters away from the tracks, while the freight train still stayed on the rails.

However, State Interior Minister Holger Hoevelmann said at a news conference that it was too early to draw a conclusion as the investigation was still underway.

"As you can see, we are still speechless and shocked by the images and the level of destruction," he added.

Federal police official Ralf Krueger said the two trains collided into each other "at considerable speed" in heavy fog. Some officials estimated that the passenger train's speed reached 80 kilometers per hour and many people were instantly killed by the knock-on effect.

"The crash was so strong that the passenger train was catapulted off the tracks," Armin Friedrich, the police officer in charge of the rescue work, told reporters.

Xinhua reporters saw that clothes, magazines, bags, shard of glass and broken seats scattered around the bush near the two trains. On the field whitened with snow and ice, dark red bloodstains and black imprints could be seen where the bodies used to be placed.

Nearly 200 police, firefighters, rescuers worked overnight at the scene with the help of newly-installed lighting equipment. However, heavy fog prevented helicopters from landing to help speed up the rescue efforts.

Some emergency workers told Xinhua that not all the victims were Germans, but their exact nationalities remained unknown. Police said that only two bodies had been identified over the night, and the process was slowed down as many victims did not have IDs with them. A phone hotline was opened for family members and information providers.

The regional passenger train, known as HarzElbeExpress, was traveling from Magdeburg, capital of Saxony-Anhalt, to Halberstadt with 50 passengers on board when it smashed head-on into the freight train, owned by Peine Salzgitter AG and loaded with lime.

The entire railroad service from Magdeburg to Halberstadt has been suspended, and shuttle buses have been arranged to carry passengers to those two destinations, according to the passenger train's operator, Veolia Transport Group. The HarzElbeExpress has been operating since December 2005.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her condolences to the families of the victims and thanked rescue workers "for their quick and tireless efforts" on Sunday in a statement.

"I am confident that all will be done to uncover the causes of this terrible accident," she added.

Saturday's tragedy is the deadliest train crash for Germany since 2006, when an experimental magnetically-levitated train crashed with an inspection vehicle at 170 kilometers an hour and left 23 people dead.

Germany's worst train collision happened in June 1998, when a high-speed InterCity Express (ICE) train derailed and bumped into a bridge in the state of Lower-Saxony, killing 101 and injuring 88. It was caused by a single fatigue crack in one of the wheels.



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Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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