13 Jul 2016

Italy train crash leaves 20 dead

7:48 am on 13 July 2016

Twenty people died and dozens were injured on Tuesday when two passenger trains collided at high speed in southern Italy.

Carriages were torn apart by the force of the head-on collision in the southern Italian region of Puglia.

Carriages were torn apart by the force of the head-on collision in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Photo: AFP / Vigili del Fuoco

The trains crashed head-on as they travelled down the same stretch of track that links the small towns of Corato and Andria in the region of Puglia.

The front carriages on each were pulverised as they slammed into one another. Giuseppe Corrado, deputy head of the local province, appealed for blood donors to go to local hospitals, with at least 30 people hurt in the crash.

Sky Italia TV quoted sources as saying one of the drivers had died and there had bee no word yet about the fate of the other.

"It looks like there has been a plane crash," said the mayor of Corato, Massimo Mazzilli.

The collision happened at around 11.30 am on a fiercely hot summer's day.

Rescue services parked their ambulances and fire trucks among the olive trees and set up a field hospital to treat the injured. Helicopters landed in a nearby field to pick up the most seriously injured.

"I dug through the wreckage and managed to save my husband. But I saw people cut to pieces," said an elderly woman standing alongside her husband, whose head was swathed in bandages. Another survivor said he was thrown to the floor by the impact. "When I got up, I saw hellish scenes around me."

It was not clear how many people had been on the trains at the time of the collision. By mid-afternoon, a giant crane had arrived at the scene to start lifting the smashed carriages to see if any bodies were still trapped under the wreckage.

The stretch of track is operated by a small, private rail company Ferrotramviaria. Italian media said the European Union had earmarked funds to build a second track along the route but that the work had been delayed.

The last major rail disaster in Italy was in 2009 when a freight train derailed in Viareggio, in the centre of the country, and more than 30 people living close to the tracks died in the subsequent fire.

- Reuters