A head-on collision between two trains in Belgium is reported to have left up to 25 people dead. The crash in a Brussels suburb happened during morning rush hour. It is not known what caused it but it comes after a weekend of snow and freezing temperatures. All morning emergency services have been trying to treat the injured and free those trapped in the wreckage.
The trains collided just before 8:30am local time in the commuter town of Halle about fifteen kilometres from the capital as many people were heading to work.
A woman who was in the first carriage of one of the trains said: “ I don;t know what happened. We felt a huge explosion. Everything went upside down — belongings, the seats — I was really lucky.”
“There was a violent crash,” said another survivor, “I collided head-on with my neighbour in front of me, so I just got a bump. He is more badly injured. Otherwise I don’t know exactly what happened.”
Other witnesses have been using the internet to send photos and give first hand accounts of the accident.
One passenger described how people were thrown around violently inside the carriages. He said that the train did not brake, and it was a brutal collision. People then waited but could not get out because the doors were blocked. It was 15 minutes before they were able to get out.
The collision happened on the line from the town of Soignies into Brussels. Local police have confirmed that there are several serious injuries. A government minister told Belgian media that some amputations had been carried out.
Other railway services in the area have been blocked. Eurostar said that services in and out of Brussels were completely suspended until further notice. The high speed Thalys line between Brussels and Paris was also stopped.
The Belgian interior minister has visited the crash scene. The head of the Flanders region, who is abroad at the moment, described it as another black day for the area.
The past decade has seen at least two other serious train accidents in Belgium. In 2001 eight people were killed and 12 injured in a head-on collision between commuter trains outside Brussels. Then is was thought that language difficulties between a Flemish-speaking signalman and a French-speaking colleague were a factor.
Another crash two years ago left more than 40 injured when a passenger train travelling in the wrong direction hit a goods train.