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Spain train derailment kills at least 78; 7 days mourning declared

A high-speed train ran off the tracks outside the northern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela on Wednesday, killing at least 78 people, officials said.

So far 73 bodies have been recovered from the scene in Spain’s Galicia region, while four people died in hospital, a spokeswoman for Galicia supreme court said Thursday, according to the BBC.

More than 140 people were injured. Emergency services personnel continued to search for people still trapped in the wreckage throughout the night. 

“The scene is shocking, it’s Dante-esque,” Alberto Nunez Feijoo, the head of the Galicia region, said in a radio interview late Wednesday, according to Britain’s Guardian.

Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who was born in Santiago, was visiting the scene of the accident on Thursday.

“In the face of a tragedy such as just happened in Santiago de Compostela on the eve of its big day, I can only express my deepest sympathy as a Spaniard and a Galician,” said Rajoy in a statement.

“For someone from Santiago, like myself, believe me, this is the saddest Day of Saint James of my life,” he added.

The train was carrying 218 passengers in addition to crew members when it derailed en route from Madrid to El Ferrol on the Galician coast, Spain’s state-owned Renfe train company said,reported The Wall Street Journal

“A lot of people were squashed on the bottom. We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the wagons to get out, and we realized the train was burning,” passenger Ricardo Montesco told Cadena Ser radio station, according to the Guardian. “I was in the second wagon and there was fire … I saw corpses.”

Photos of the accident site published on Spanish media websites and Twitter showedoverturned train carriages, train cars on fire and bodies covered with blankets.

This CCTV camera footage shows the moment the train derailed:

The accident is Spain’s first on its large network of high-speed railways, and its most deadly in years.

A judge has been appointed to investigate, the BBC reported. A spokesman for Spain’s interior ministry told reporters that there was so far no evidence of a terorrist attack.

“Everything right now points to an accident,” he said.

BBC reported that one of the train’s drivers was put under formal investigation after the derailment.

Santiago de Compostela — whose historic old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular destination for Christian pilgrims — had been due to celebrate its namesake, Saint James, in an annual festival on Thursday. The city has canceled the event.

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