A high-speed train travelling from Madrid to the Galicia region of northwest Spain derailed late Wednesday night killing at least 77 people and injuring around 120 more.
Emergency services rushed to the scene with fire fighters climbing over twisted metal trying to rescue survivors through windows. All thirteen carriages had jumped the rails, some of them ending up one on top of the other.
The disaster happened near the city of Santiago de Compostela. Witnesses described an explosion as the train rounded a bend, possibly going too fast, and then derailed.
Preparations had been under way for Galicia Day celebrations and thousands had been expected to attend.
The Mayor of Santiago de Compostela, Angel Curras Fernandez, was one of a team coordinating the city’s response to the disaster.
“As you can imagine, all events for the local festival have been cancelled and two halls, the Cersia and San Lazaro buildings are going to be fitted out for the families of victims. They will probably end up being multi-purpose facilities for the bodies of victims. The injured are being looked after in Galicia General Hospital,” he said.
Although talk of an explosion triggered suspicions of a terrorist attack, local investigators have rejected the idea and are working on the basis the disaster was an accident.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who comes from the region, visited the site of the crash on Thursday.
Our reporter at the scene, Filipa Soares, said: “Today was supposed to be a festive day in Santiago de Compostela, but a sense of grief has pervaded Galicia. A train crash, one of Spain’s most serious, has caused scores of deaths and left more than 100 injured.”