As relatives arrived at a Valencia courthouse to identify victims of yesterday’s underground train derailment, the death toll continued to rise. Officials say at least 41 people were killed when two carriages ran off the tracks and overturned at high speed just before a station in the eastern Spanish city. Another 47 people were hurt, of whom 12 remain hospitalized, two of them in critical condition.
Rescue teams worked into the night to recover bodies from inside wrecked carriages. While officials have ruled out a terrorist attack, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has cut short an official visit to India. This evening he will attend a funeral ceremony in Valencia. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia will also be there.
At a news conference with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, Zapatero said: “I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of the deceased, on behalf of the government and the nation and also on behalf of all the Spanish people.”
Some survivors said the train began travelling faster than usual and shook from side to side before braking. Trapped passengers rang emergency services from mobile phones. 150 people were evacuated from the station platform. One woman told reporters: “There was an explosion, there was black smoke and everyone was trying to run away.”
A government official said the derailment was caused by excess speed and a wheel breaking just before the train entered a station. But a regional transport official said the cause could only be established once the “black box” had been analysed.