High-speed German train bursts into flames between Cologne and Frankfurt

A fire in an ICE train on the Frankfurt-Cologne high-speed railway line has triggered a major rescue operation and led to the closure of one of the most important arteries in German rail traffic.

High-speed German train bursts into flames between Cologne and Frankfurt
The damaged ICE train. Photo: DPA

The fire broke out on the train, which was reportedly travelling from Cologne to Frankfurt, early on Friday morning, beside the town of Dierdorf near Montabauer in Rhineland-Palatinate. Police said the train was halted and emergency crews managed to evacuate all 510 people on board.

Despite dramatic footage which showed flames engulf part of the train, authorities said only five people suffered minor injuries. The incident has triggered delays and disruption along the well-travelled route, as well as for motorists.

The high-speed line will remain closed at least this weekend, a spokesperson for Deutsche Bahn said on Friday. The nearby Autobahn 3 had to be closed temporarily due to smoke.

According to a spokesman for the federal police, helicopters were also on site “to get an overview of the damage”. The cause of the fire is unclear and an investigation is underway to establish what happened.

The investigation could take several weeks, and will be led by the police and rail investigators. A spokesman for the Office for Railway Accident Investigation said: “We are still at the beginning of our accident investigations.”

Firefighters at the scene. Photo: DPA

According to the police, one person suffered an ankle injury while getting off the train during the rescue mission. Four other travellers had circulatory problems because of the shock. Passengers were taken to a nearby village community centre.

The fire had broken out in a carriage, to the end of the train.

“The fire could be contained very quickly and is currently under control,” said a spokesperson for the fire brigade. Initially, about 250 firefighters were deployed, as well as 50 emergency medical workers.

A video on Twitter shows huge flames engulfing part of the train. Sascha Frank, 41, who was sitting in the front part of the affected ICE train, told RP Online that there was no chaotic scenes during the fire.

He said:  “The railway staff were calm and professional all the time. There was no panic among the passengers at any time”.

'Very lucky'

District fire inspector Werner Böcking called it “very lucky” that an off-duty police officer was sitting on the train as well as other members of aid organizations, such as a member of an airport fire brigade.

A rescue worker described these passengers' response as “very calm”.

The dramatic scene. Photo: DPA

Federal police spokesman Christian Altenhofen said his colleague on board had noticed the smoke and raised the alarm.

It's still not known when the high-speed route will re-open. Passengers travelling by train between Frankfurt and Cologne will have to expect train cancellations and considerable delays of up to 90 minutes for several days.

The burnt out train is currently being inspected. After that, railway experts will check the damage to tracks, signalling equipment and overhead lines.

Trains are currently being diverted over the old Rhine line, which takes about 80 minutes longer. There will be no stops in Siegburg/Bonn, Montabaur and Limburg Süd.

According to the rail operators Deutsche Bahn, tickets on the Cologne-Rhine/Main train connection will be offered at low prices. The ticket price will be refunded in full to the passengers of the affected ICE 511, reports RP Online.

On the A3, in the direction of Cologne, the road was reopened later in the morning, and two of three lanes towards Frankfurt have also reopened. The scene of the accident is near the border between Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse.

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Germany could ‘lose last glaciers in 10 years’

Germany's glaciers are melting at a faster pace than feared and the country could lose its last ice caps in 10 years, an alarming report said Thursday.

Germany could 'lose last glaciers in 10 years'
The glacier on Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, covered in snow. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

“The days of glaciers in Bavaria are numbered. And even sooner than expected,” said Thorsten Glauber, environment minister of the southern region, home to Germany’s ice-capped Alps.

“The last Bavarian Alpine glacier could be gone in 10 years.” Scientists had previously estimated the glaciers would be around until the middle of the century.

But the melting has accelerated dramatically over the last years. Located in the Zugspitze area and in the Berchtesgaden Alps, Germany’s five glaciers have lost about two-thirds of their volume in the past decade.

Their surface areas have also shrunk by a third – equivalent to around 36 football fields.

Issuing a stark warning over global warming, Glauber stressed that the glaciers are “not only a monument of Earth’s history in the form of snow and ice”.

“They are thermometers for the state of our climate,” he added.

A global study released Wednesday found nearly all the world’s glaciers are losing mass at an ever increasing pace, contributing to more than a fifth of global sea level rise this century.

An international team of researchers analysing images taken by a NASA satellite said that between 2000-2019, the world’s glaciers lost an average of 267 billion tonnes of ice each year — enough to submerge Switzerland under six metres of water every year.

The report came as meteorologists in Germany said this April has been the coldest in four decades.

Like elsewhere in Europe, Germany has recorded wild weather in recent years. After a winter in which temperatures plunged well below freezing in February, the mercury rose to 25.9 degrees on April 1 before slipping more than 15 degrees for much of the rest of the month.

Environmentalists blame global warming for the shifts and have been urging governments to do more to halt the damaging trend.

READ ALSO: How Germany is reacting to top court’s landmark ruling

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement countries aim to keep the global temperature increase to under two degrees Celsius, and ideally closer to 1.5 degrees, by 2050.

Climate activists scored a landmark victory Thursday in a case against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government as the Constitutional Court ruled Berlin’s environment protection plan insufficient.