80 people have died, 178 are injured (including five Americans) and 95 have been hospitalized after a train carrying 218 passengers derailed near the city of Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region of Spain at 8:41 pm on Wednesday. There are two ongoing investigations into why the train derailed. It is suspected that the train was traveling too fast before turning. Terrorism is not suspected.
The train was nearing the end of a six-hour trip from Madrid on its way to Ferrol. It derailed approximately two miles from the train station in Santiago de Compostela. Local residents said they heard a huge bang. 13 train cars derailed, the train skid on the track and crashed into a concrete wall. The scene was catastrophic; one car split in half, one car was on fire and four cars were overturned. Residents in the area ran to assist the injured, rescue teams arrived and fellow passengers helped each other escape the cars. People were pulled through broken windows while others broke more windows with rocks. 73 people died at the scene of the accident; four children and 32 adults are in critical condition.
The driver of the train said the train was traveling too fast before turning, and he is being questioned by police. Maria Pardos Rios, a spokesperson for the supreme court of Galicia, said “He is not being charged by a judge at the moment – it is all at a police level.” The driver estimates he was traveling at 190 kilometers per hour in an area where the speed limit for the train is 80 kilometers per hour. Julio Gomez-Pomar, the president of Renfe, the railway company, said the train in question had been inspected the same day and “did not have an operating problem.” He claimed “the maintenance and control record of the train was perfect.”
Interim charge d’affaires at the United States Embassy in Madrid, Luis G. Moreno, stated, “We are deeply shocked by the news of last night’s train crash in Galicia. Our hearts and prayers are with the friends and families of the victims.”
Albert Nunez Feijoo, government head of Galicia, has declared seven days of mourning for the victims. Meanwhile, the celebration of Saint James’ day (July 25th of each year) on Thursday has been cancelled. Since the 9th century, pilgrims have traveled to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (the capital of Galicia) where the remains of Saint James are believed to be buried.
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