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Ten killed, dozens injured in train crash

The Local · 30 Jan 2011, 17:00

Published: 30 Jan 2011 09:39 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Jan 2011 17:00 GMT+01:00

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Around 23 people have been confirmed injured, some seriously, in the collision between a regional passenger train and a goods train. It is being described as Germany's worst rail accident in years.

It has been reported that most of the fatalities – including the train driver and the conductor - died immediately as they were in the front of the passenger train while nearly everyone else on board were injured, up to 18 of them seriously.

The collision occurred on the HarzElbeExpress (HEX) train service between Magdeburg and Halberstadt at Hordorf near Ochersleben. Maintenance work was scheduled for the night, the HEX website said.

The route is a single track section, and the trains smashed headlong into each other with such force that the HEX train – just an engine and one carriage – was catapulted off the rails and landed on its side. The freight train was pulling containers of chalk, and only stopped around 500 metres after the collision.

Saxony-Anhalt’s state premier Wolfgang Böhmer was at the scene of the crash on Sunday and visited a number of injured people in local hospitals. He praised rescue workers and said the crash might have been caused by human error.

"It's likely the stop signal wasn't respected. It's not normal that two trains were running on the same track," Böhmer told journalists.

Police said all around 100 available personnel from the region were sent to the scene to help the injured, while rescue teams were also present with heavy engineering equipment to open the wreckage and reach survivors and remove the dead.

Fog in the area meant that helicopters could not be used to take the injured to hospital.

Two of the victims were only brought from the twisted metal on Sunday morning, and were not immediately identified.

A probe has been launched to determine the cause of the accident. “The investigation is currently looking in all directions, including human error as well as technical failure,” a spokesman for the federal police said.

He said that the trains had hit each other with such force that the passengers at the front were killed immediately.

“It is a difficult operation and I hope the colleagues get through it,” said fire fighter crew head Bernd Delecke.

The line was closed on Sunday while technical teams continued to work to clear the tracks. The nature of the spot and the catastrophic damage done to the passenger train means it may have to be cut into pieces on site, a spokesman for HEX said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Deutsche Bahn head Rüdiger Grube both released statements on Sunday expressing their shock at the accident and best wishes for the injured and relatives of those killed.

Germany has been hit by several fatal train accidents in the past few years.

Story continues below…

In 2006, 23 people were killed and 10 injured when an experimental magnetic levitation Transrapid train crashed at 170 kilometres an hour on a test track at Lathen in northwest Germany in a collision with an inspection vehicle.

Three years earlier six people died and 25 were injured in June 2003 in a frontal collision between two regional trains near Schrozberg in the southwest of the country.

But the worst postwar train disaster occurred on June 3, 1998 when an InterCity Express (ICE) travelling from Munich in the south to Hamburg in the north hit a bridge and derailed, killing 101 and injuring 88 at Eschede in northern Germany.

Last August 15 people were injured when an ICE high-speed train travelling from Frankfurt to Paris hit a garbage truck near Lambrecht in southwest Germany.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:09 January 30, 2011 by Gretl
Linguistic question: Is a "goods train" a UK expression or a translation from German?

US English: "freight train"
16:06 January 30, 2011 by Anuj
Sad to read about the accident. RIP.

"Goods Train" is a UK expression.
18:55 January 30, 2011 by wood artist
Well, we've got a place to start. "It's not normal that two trains are running on the same track." (not blaming The Local...the premier said it)

I'm saddened by the loss of life, but, unless they disabled a signal or something, the maintenance issue is a red herring. The chalk train wasn't involved in the maintenance program (obviously) so this is a plain and simple screw-up. Although it will change nothing, I hope they can figure it out so it can be avoided in the future.

22:49 January 30, 2011 by Logic Guy
Well, it's surprising to hear of such disaster in Germany.

In my opinion, all of these train accidents are a true reflection of how liberal the country has become.

To be conservative is to be cautious.

It does matter who you are, be it an individual, an organization or government, if you have problems, then you do simply because there is a liberal element in your appracoh to things.

Real Conservatism. It's really the only answer.
23:16 January 30, 2011 by el3ktro
Train accidents happen because people are too liberal?? I don't even want to know what the logic behind this is supposed to be ...

Besides, there a thousands, if not tens of thousands of trains running in Germany EVERY DAY, and almost never anything happens.
00:55 January 31, 2011 by DepotCat
@ wood artist "It's not normal that two trains are running on the same track."

I think what they mean is it's not normal for two trains to be heading in opposite directions on the same track. Germany has many single lines with passing loops for trains running in the opposite direction to pass. Subject to signalling, they may have the ability to run more than one train on a single line in the same direction.

Not knowing the cause of this crash as yet...A similar accident resulting in five deaths occured on a single line in the UK at Cowden, on 15th October 1994. That was due to a signal being passed at danger.

02:03 January 31, 2011 by wood artist

Yeah, I got that. I guess I was being a bit facetious, because his comment was so obvious. I'm well aware that single line tracks exist, and are always being used in "opposite directions," employing "sidings" or "passing loops" as you call them.

It would appear that either a signal malfunctioned, or somebody ignored one. I guess I just expected something a bit more...well...intelligent from an elected official holding a relatively high office.

Sorry if my attempt at humor failed. To me, there's nothing remotely funny about this.

05:04 January 31, 2011 by kellermeyerm
I find the story to be horrendous and shocking. And completely unpolitical, I might add. What I found amusing was that below the comments box was an advertisement to travel Germany by rail.
13:26 January 31, 2011 by LecteurX
Logic Guy, I beg your pardon? I love the irony in your user name btw.

Are conservative countries exempt of human & technical mistakes and of disasters? Of rail crashes? Although that's quite a pointless exercise, may I disprove your statement by pointing to the Clapham Junction rail crash, in the UK in 1988, which claimed 35 lives, several years into Thatcher's era?

I'm horrified by this accident, it's terrible and so random. Irrelevant political comments won't make it any better.
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