- The Telegraph
At least 22 people were killed and dozens more injured yesterday when two trains crashed in a head-on collision in the southern Italian region of Puglia, writes Josephine McKenna in Rome.
The two trains collided on a stretch of isolated track surrounded by olive trees around 11.30 a.m. between the towns of Ruvo di Puglia and Corato, around 25 miles from Bari.
Dramatic images of the crumpled carriages showed how the violent impact of the crash forced them off the rails and debris was strewn across the countryside.
Massimo Mazzilli, the mayor of Corato, compared the devastation at the scene of the accident to a “plane crash”.
“It’s a disaster, it’s as if a plane has crashed,” Mr Mazzilli said on his Facebook page as he posted shocking pictures of the accident.
Emergency workers, firefighters and police worked throughout the day in blistering temperatures above 90f (33C) to free survivors trapped beneath the twisted metal.
“Unfortunately the death toll has risen to 20,” said Giuseppe Corrado, the vice-president of the local province as emergency efforts continued.
A young boy was rescued and airlifted to a local hospital by helicopter with unspecified injuries while another survivor had surgery for serious spinal fractures.
Later in the day a crane arrived to remove pieces of the carriages and help emergency workers determine if any injured were still trapped inside.
Around 50 injured were transported by helicopter and ambulances to hospitals in nearby towns including Bisceglie, Barletta and Andria, as local officials appealed for urgent blood donations.
“An incredible, shocking scene,” one police officer at the scene told the Italian news agency ANSA. “I saw dead people, others who were crying for help, people who were crying. It was the most terrible scene I have seen in my life.”
The local train line is run by a private company, Ferrotramviaria, based in Bari.
The trains were travelling in opposite directions on a single track and the front two carriages of both trains took the full force of the impact.
“Several carriages are completely crushed and the emergency workers are pulling people out of the train, there are many injured,” Riccardo Zingaro, head of Andria traffic police, told journalists at the scene.
Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella expressed his “profound sorrow” for the victims and their families in what he called an “unacceptable tragedy”.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Tweeted his sympathy and notable anger and pledged a full investigation to determine the cause of the crash.
“Tears and sorrow for the victims and their families, but also so much anger,” Mr Renzi Tweeted late Tuesday. “We are demanding clarity about what happened in Puglia this morning.”
Mr Renzi was planning to fly to the crash site in Puglia late Tuesday as Graziano Del Rio, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, arrived in Puglia sayinghe had sent inspectors to join railway police in their investigation.
Del Rio said a committee of inquiry would also be held into the cause of the accident.
As messages of grief and sympathy were expressed across Italy, questions were also being raised about how an accident like this could have occurred and there was speculation it was caused by human error.
“It is unacceptable that such incidents can still occur in 2016, and even more unacceptable that to speak about ‘human error’,” said Carlo Rienzi, president of the consumer group, Codacons.
“All the railway lines in the world benefit from the most advanced technology available to avoid collisions, derailments and errors.
“Today’s tragedy demonstrates how the railway transport in southern Italy is still at an intolerable level.”
Eleonora Forenza, a European MP from Bari, said it was “incomprehensible” that such a popular railway line was on a single track.