16 Feb 2010

Belgian commuter train crash kills 18

9:23 am on 16 February 2010

At least 18 people have died in a head-on collision between two commuter trains in Belgium during rush-hour.

The crash happened about 8.30am on Monday in thick snow near Halle, about 15km southwest of Brussels, as commuters headed to work in the capital. Some 125 passengers were injured.

The front of both trains were pushed upwards in a mass of twisted metal, while other carriages were hurled onto their sides.

Flemish Brabant provincial governor Lodewijk De Witte was quoted by AFP as saying the bodies of 15 men and three women had been recovered, though the toll was expected to rise further.

An investigation was under way to determine the cause of the crash. Mr De Witte said one train had apparently failed to stop at a red light.

Sources with the national railway operator told a Belgian broadcaster 25 people had been killed, according to the BBC, which says there is confusion over the death toll.

There were reports of passengers still trapped in the wreckage hours after the crash, the BBC says.

Witnesses said people were thrown around violently inside the trains with one passenger describing the "carriages compacted together" by the collision.

The crash, on a key line, caused widespread rail disruption, with all Eurostar high-speed train services to and from London cancelled for the day, as well as Thalys rail services to France, Germany and elsewhere, AFP reports.