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Three dead as packed Italy commuter train derails

By AFP - Jan 25,2018 - Last updated at Jan 25,2018

A damaged coach is seen after a train derailed in Pioltello, on the outskirts of Milan, Italy, on Thursday (Reuters photo)

MILAN — At least three people were killed and about 12 seriously injured after a packed Italian commuter train derailed on Thursday near the northern city of Milan.

Italian media quoted witnesses as saying that the regional train began to shake heavily as if it was travelling over rocks, before braking suddenly and derailing. 

Some people were trapped for hours in the wreckage as firefighters, police and rescue workers took care of the traumatised passengers and tried to clear the carriages, one of which jack-knifed across the track after the train struck a pylon, bent almost at a right angle.

According to Italian media the three victims were women aged 39, 51 and 61.

"People were scared, they were shouting 'my God, my god, my god'. I managed to climb out of a window after the carriage went onto its side," John Eugaosa, a 25-year-old Nigerian living in Milan for work, told AFP.

His trousers stained with the blood of other passengers, he was waiting to see a doctor in one of the two gymnasiums used to take care of the more than 90 people who sustained light injuries.

 

'The train was full' 

 

"Unfortunately the train was full, and if the current toll ends up staying as it is it would almost be a miracle. The train was packed with commuters and students," said Milan's police commissioner Marcello Cardona.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

Milan prosecutors have opened a probe, and investigators have begun questioning the driver, Italian media said.

Rescuers spent the morning searching the wreckage for victims and firefighters said a dozen people were seriously injured, including five in a life-threatening condition.

According to regional emergency services in Milan, another 100 people sustained light injuries in the incident, which took place at around 7am (06:00 GMT) near Segrate in Milan's northeastern suburbs.

The derailment is the most serious rail accident in Italy since 23 people were killed in a high-speed head-on collision between two passenger trains in July 2016 in the southern Puglia region.

 

'Mummy, help!' 

 

One woman told the newspaper La Repubblica that her daughter had called her on her phone to say "Mummy, help, the train is derailing" as the accident happened.

Pictures issued by the Italian fire service showed at least one passenger stuck in his seat, closed in by the wreckage.

Firefighters were seen carrying victims into a waiting helicopter.

The regional train was travelling between the town of Cremona and Italy's business and finance capital.

"We are investigating the dynamics of the incident, the rail structure... everything has to be checked piece by piece," Cardona said. 

An official from Rete Ferroviaria Italiana, which manages the rail network, said that one of the potential causes of the incident could be a 20-centimetre rupture in the track, but that it was still working to establish whether that was "the cause or a consequence of the incident".

"There was either a problem with the tracks or the train's bogie [structure]," said Dario Barlotta, a representative of Italy's National Public Transport Observatory.

The six-carriage train belonged to the Lombardy regional rail company Trenord, which is owned equally by the public company Trenitalia and Ferrovie Nord Milano and operates principally in the north of Italy.

Trenord informed passengers at 8am of the interruption to services due to a "technical problem", sparking sharp criticism on social media.

"In recent years we have invested more in high-speed trains and the main lines than in the network that should take people to work every day," said Cattaneo Raffaele, president of the Lombardy regional council.

 

"There needs to be political attention on the need to invest more in suburban rail travel."

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