Euronews spoke to El Pais photographer Oscar Corral, who was one of the first people to reach the scene of the derailment.
He described what he saw: “It happened just before Santiago, on a bend where the train went completely off the rails. Several coaches were completely destroyed, unrecognisable. There were lots of bodies strewn on the ground, covered by plastic sheets.
Passenger Ricardo Montesco told Cadena Ser radio station the train approached the curve at high speed before the crash.
He described the situation inside twisted carriages piled on top of the each other: “A lot of people were squashed on the bottom. We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the carriages to get out and we realised the train was burning. … I was in the second carriage and there was fire. … I saw corpses.”
Neighbours ran to the site to help emergency workers tend to the wounded. Ana Taboada, a 29-year-old hospital worker, was one of the first on the scene.
“When the dust lifted I saw corpses. I didn’t make it down to the track, because I was helping the passengers that were coming up the embankment,” said. “I saw a man trying to break a window with a stone to help those inside get out.”
“We heard a massive noise and we went down the tracks. I helped getting a few injured and bodies out of the train. I went into one of the cars but I’d rather not tell you what I saw there,” Ricardo Martinez, a 47-year old baker from Santiago de Compostela, told Reuters.
“The scene is shocking, it’s Dante-esque,” said the head of the surrounding Galicia region, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, in a radio interview. He said he had declared seven days of official mourning in the Galicia region.