Fog hampers rescue efforts after head-on collision between commuter and freight trains in eastern Germany
At least 10 people were killed and dozens injured in a head-on train crash in eastern Germany last night.
Police fear the death toll could rise following the collision between a commuter train and a freight train near the village of Hordorf, close to Saxony-Anhalt's state capital Magdeburg. Around 40 people were injured, some seriously, according to police reports.
The Harz Elbe Express was on its way from Magdeburg to Halberstadt when the accident happened. A spokesman for the privately-owned rail company Hex said that the train's driver and conductor were among the dead.
The accident happened just before 10.30pm local time when the commuter train, travelling on a single track at around 60mph, hit the cargo train, which was going at around 50mph. A police spokesman said the trains were travelling so fast that the passengers in the front carriage would have been killed instantly.
Rescue operations were still under way this morning, and investigators have not yet identified the cause of the collision, regional police spokesman Frank Kuessner said. "Rescue operations are still ongoing. The death toll may well rise further," he said. Almost 200 police and rescue workers were at the crash site, he added.
The management of the operating company Hex was "shocked" about the accident, said a spokesman. The route between Magdeburg and Halberstadt is single track, said Hex. Engineering work was due to take place on the line last night, according to information on the firm's website.
The crash site was a scene of devastation this morning. Crumpled carriages from the derailed passenger train lay on their side on the frost-covered ground. The freight train, which was several hundred metres long, was still on the track.
Last night, corpses were laid out in front of the trains, covered under blankets. So far, just two of the dead have been identified, according reports. The severe injuries sustained by the other eight are making identification difficult, according to an investigator.
Thick fog last night hampered the rescue effort and prevented a helicopter taking the injured to hospital. "It is a difficult operation, " said fire services manager Bernd Delecke.
Saxony-Anhalt's deputy interior minister Ruediger Erben, who rushed to the scene late Saturday, said the trains must have crashed head-on at high speed, German news agency DAPD reported.
The noise of the collision was heard in Oschersleben village, four miles from the crash site.
It is the most devastating rail crash in Germany for years. In September 2006, a test train crashed into a workshop in Lathen, Lower Saxony, killing 23 people and injuring 11 others. The biggest railway disaster in Germany since the second world war was in June 1998, when a fast train heading from Munich to Hamburg derailed in Lower Saxony, killing 101 people on board.
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