The back of the train

As dawn broke on the tragic scene of what is set to be Spain´s worst train crash in history, around 200 emergency personnel are still working on the site at Angrois near Santiago de Campostela, searching and hoping to find any remaining survivors, but knowing that the likelihood is that anybody they find now, will be added to the list of those who have lost their lives.

“Derailed, what can I do, what can I do?” were the reported words of one of the drivers of the train, as he telephoned controllers to report what had happened to his train, reportedly carrying 218 passengers and 4 crew, of which 72 have now lost their lives, some still awaiting identification, and over 100 are injured, at least 5 in a serious condition and unconscious, figures which are continuing to rise.

Passengers reported feeling the train taking a “sharp turn to the left”, some then saying that the next thing they remember was opening their eyes and being surrounded by corpses.

Initial reports from the scene state that the driver, who suffered only minor injuries in the crash, immediately recognised that the train was travelling at 190 kilometres per hour, as he drove through a sharp curve where the speed is limited to 80. The train could have been travelling at up to 250 kilometres per hour in the course of their journey. Local reports state that immediately after raising the alarm, the two drivers joined the rescue and assistance to the injured.

As victim after victim was removed from the train, all taken to a temporary morgue, one policeman was quoted as saying, “I can’t hold back tears when I’m removing the dead, and their mobile phones are ringing”, highlighting the emotions involved as the emergency teams dealt with the situation without question or fear, responding instinctively to help.

Entire communities came to assist in any way that they could, as the hospitals issued emergency appeals for blood donors, the streets became flooded with people, queuing for streets on end, to do their bit to help people they have never met, and probably never will.

Similar to some of the infrastructure in the Alicante area, the route had been adapted for high speed trains, but the signalling system had not yet been brought up to date. This particular curve which saw the crash is said to be one of the sharpest on the entire route. In 2011, an incident with a train speeding through the curve caused a number of minor injuries as people lost their balance and fell inside a train, on a bend that even regular travellers know is somewhat infamous. It is also the first curve of any magnitude on the route the train was travelling.

The train itself, an 8-car Alvia 730 series, is a hybrid diesel and electric traction unit, relatively new, and had left Madrid-Chamartin station at 15:00, destined to reach Ferrol at 2230.

All trains on the route had been busy, due to the 25th of July being a holiday in the area, the día de Galicia, although all official celebrations and fiestas have been cancelled as a mark of respect.

The line remains closed with a number of train services facing diversions, all details of which can be found by contacting the train operating company, RENFE.

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