MADRID — A passenger train derailed Wednesday night on a curvy stretch of track in northwestern Spain, killing at least 40 people caught inside toppled cars and injuring dozens in the country’s worst rail accident in decades, officials said.
Bodies were covered in blankets next to the tracks as rescue workers tried to get trapped people out of the train’s cars.
Images showed one car pointing up into the air with one of its ends twisted and disfigured. Another carriage that had been severed in two was lying on a road near the track.
Officials gave differing death tolls in the immediate aftermath of the crash just outside Santiago de Compostela, on the eve of the city’s annual religious festival that attracts tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world.
Alberto Nunez Feijoo, president of the region of Galicia where Santiago de Compostela is the capital, said at least 40 people died. But the president of Galicia’s main court, Miguel Angel Cadenas, was quoted from the scene by the Cadena Ser radio station saying 56 died. Rescue workers were still searching through the smoldering wreckage of the train’s cars this morning in the pre-dawn darkness.
State-owned train operator Renfe reported in a statement that 218 passengers and an unspecified number of staff were on board the eight-carriage train when it crashed on a section of tracks that came online two years ago.
Renfe reported that it and track operator Adif were collaborating with a judge appointed to investigate the accident.
Spanish media said scores of people were injured, with Cadena Ser quoting government officials saying 100 were hurt.
Santiago de Compostela officials canceled ceremonies planned for today, when Catholic pilgrims converge on the city to celebrate a festival honoring St. James.