A train derailed outside the ancient northwestern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela on Wednesday evening, killing at least 77 people and injuring up to 131 in one of Europe’s worst rail disasters.
Bodies covered in blankets lay next to the overturned carriages as smoke billowed from the wreckage. Firefighters clambered over the twisted metal trying to get survivors out of the windows, while ambulances and fire engines surrounded the scene.
The government said it was working on the assumption the derailment, which occurred on the eve of the city’s main religious festival, was an accident.
Sabotage or attack was unlikely to be involved, an official source said, though the devastation will have stirred memories of a train bombing in Madrid in 2004, carried out by Islamist extremists, that killed 191 people.
The Santiago de Compostela train operated by state rail company Renfe with 247 people on board derailed as the city prepared for the festival of Saint James, when thousands of Christian pilgrims from across the world pack the streets.