Italy’s head-on train collision leaves at least 25 dead, 50 injured

ROME — A dramatic head-on crash between two trains, one the most serious accidents in Italy in recent years, has left at least 25 victims and more than 50 injured, according to local press.

The accident happened at around 11:30 a.m. local time on Tuesday, when one train hit another going the other way on a single-track railway in a countryside area between the towns of Ruvo di Puglia and Corato in Puglia region.

Both trains had four carriages. The first aerial photograph from firefighters showed the twisted metal of the first two carriages on each train, with wreckage strewn across a large area.

“It was a frightful, unbelievable scene,” one of the first police officers who rushed to the spot was quoted as saying by ANSA news agency. “I saw dead people, others asking for help, people crying. It was the most terrible scene in my life,” he added.

The bodies of a mother and her daughter were found holding onto each other in the debris, according to ANSA sources.

“My daughter also was on that train, she was here on a holiday,” a woman in tears told Rai state television. “Her cellphone has been disconnected for three hours. I do not know anything about her,” she said.

“I was about to irrigate my field when I first heard a siren from the trains, but it was useless because immediately after there was the crash. I saw some girls shouting and crying, and other people coming out of the trains with parts of their body missing,” said one of the first witnesses on the scene.

A six-year-old child was the first passenger rescued by firefighters who pulled him out of the debris. The child, named Samuele, was brought to hospital in helicopter and was not in life peril.

Rescue activities were in full swing until late in the evening, but the operations were very complicated because the crash happened in a remote rural area.

One of the drivers was reported dead in the impact, said sources from the private local company named Ferrotramviaria.which runs the two trains. “One of the two trains was too far, and investigators will tell us which one,” Massimo Nitti, the general manager of Ferrotramviaria, said.

Meanwhile,the local authorities appealed for blood donors to come forward urgently to help save the life of dozens of passengers hospitalized throughout the region.

“The entire region is participating in this drama with huge blood donation,” Loreto Gesualdo, head of the school of medicine at the university of Bari, capital city of Puglia, said. Photographs published by local media showed dozens of students were on the queue at local hospitals to donate blood.

No immediate reason was given for the crash, which may have been triggered by a technical failure or by the error of one of the train drivers who may have not observed a stop sign, according to first speculations. Local experts said, however, that it was too early to find out the cause.

The estimated speed of the two trains was around 100 km/h, and works had been reportedly planned to add an extra line. Commuters, students and also international tourists in the current summer season use the line every day, but the number of passengers that were on the trains on Tuesday was also not immediately available.

“An investigation committee will seek clarification about this tragedy,” Italian Transport and Infrastructure Minister Graziano Delrio told journalists after he rushed to the scene. “The collision was extremely violent,” he added.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi left Milan in northern Italy, where he was about to inaugurate an exhibition, to reach the scene in the evening. President Sergio Mattarella defined the disaster as “unacceptable” and pledged to “immediately ascertain the responsibilities and possible lacks precisely.”

According to consumers association Codacons, Tuesday’s accident highlighted the “intolerable level of backwardness” of rail transport in less developed southern Italy. “Italy is continuing to invest in high speed rail, often leaving the railway system in the south behind,” Codacons head Carlo Rienzi observed in a statement.

Over the past 15 years,four major train accidents occurred across the country and have caused a total of 56 victims, of which 32 died in 2009 when a freight train derailed in the town of Viareggio, in Tuscany region, and caused a large fire. Marzia De Giuli/ PNA/ Xinhua/