At least 13 Dead, 70 Injured in British Rail Crash
At least 13 people died and 70 were injured Wednesday when a high-speed passenger train slammed into a freight train near the northern English town of Selby, emergency services said.
Rescuers pulled out dozens of injured, 30 of them in a serious condition, from the wrecked Intercity train, a fire service spokesman said.
Police said a car that careered down an embankment onto the railway track set off the accident.
Survivors described horrifying scenes as around 60 bloodied passengers caught in the wreckage waited for help, and rescue workers cutting through the twisted metal of smashed carriages searched for tapping signals from inside the wreck.
"It's like a scene from a bomb explosion. The carnage is appalling," ambulance service spokesman Nigel Metcalfe said.
Emergency services confirmed at least 13 people had died in the 125 miles (200 kilometres) per hour accident, the latest incident to hit Britain's crisis-hit privately-run rail service.
He added more fatalities were expected to be found once heavy lifting equipment was used to move wrecked carriages.
After the 6:12 am (0612 GMT) crash, more than 100 fire workers poured into the scene with cutting tools in a bid to extract victims from the wreck spread over the tracks and a neighbouring field.
A spokeswoman for rail infrastructure firm Railtrack summed up the crash scene on the busy East Coast main railway line as "absolute devastation".
The cause of the disaster is believed to be a Land Rover which had been towing a trailer loaded with a car on the nearby M62 motorway at a point about 200 miles (320 kilometres) north of London.
The Land Rover careered down an embankment onto the railway track, and was struck by the passenger train at high speed, which in turn smashed into the freight train coming the other way.
Police said the driver of the Land Rover made a frantic emergency call to officers telling them that his vehicle was blocking the rail line, but could only watch helplessly as the disaster unfolded.
Describing the crash, survivor Janine Edwards, 22, who was only a few carriages from the front of the Newcastle to London passenger train, said: "I heard screaming and shouting and the lights went out."
"I held onto the table in front of me and then there was a huge impact," she said.
"My carriage was on it's side. I was lucky, I was still in my seat, clinging to the table. The man opposite me was streaming with blood ... the window next to him was smashed and the frame had come out and hit him."
The first three carriages of the 4:45 am (0445 GMT) train from Newcastle in northeast England to London, which is operated by rail firm GNER, appeared to have been separated from the rest of the train. One carriage ended up in a field next to the track, which was surrounded by debris from the collision.
The freight train, which was carrying coal, was partially derailed with its front end completely off the track and lying on its side. It had slid into the back garden of a house, crushing a caravan.
North Yorkshire's fire service said over 140 people were involved in the accident.
Emergency services including a fleet of ambulances from across the region arrived at the scene to help in the rescue effort.
Railtrack shares fell sharply as news of the crash emerged, even though the rail infrastructure company was not believed to be responsible for the collision.
With four fatal crashes in as many years, Britain's creaking, privatised rail system has been vilified for running late, crowded services and accused of putting profits ahead of safety.
Prior to Wednesday's crash, accidents and derailments have killed more than 40 people in the past three years, 31 of the fatalities occuring when two trains collided west of London's Paddington terminus on October 5, 1999.
In October 18, 2000, a train came off the rails at Hatfield north of London, killing four and prompting a costly nationwide overhaul that caused even greater delays and many Britons to quit trains for their cars.
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has pinned the blame for the chaotic railways on the wide-ranging privatisation and underinvestment by previous Conservative governments -- SELBY, England (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)