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At Least 41 Dead, 47 Hurt in Spain as Subway Car Derails Making Turn

July 04, 2006|From the Associated Press

VALENCIA, Spain — A subway train flipped off the tracks at high speed Monday in the Mediterranean port of Valencia, killing at least 41 people and injuring 47, officials and witnesses said.

Regional authorities and a witness said the train was going too fast when a wheel shattered on a curve approaching the Jesus station, derailing the first car.

Rescue workers hustled bloodied, sooty survivors out of the tunnel, where bodies were strewn. Anguished relatives waited outside the local morgue.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero cut short a visit to India. Pope Benedict XVI, who was to arrive in Valencia on Saturday for the Roman Catholic Church's World Meeting of the Families, prayed for the victims, the Vatican said.

Jorge Alvarez, secretary-general of the Independent Railway Union, said it was too early to determine whether human error was to blame. He said his union repeatedly had warned of safety problems on Valencia's 18-year-old subway system, particularly the No. 1 line. The driver was among those killed.

It was the second accident on the line in less than a year. A collision in September involving three trains left at least 30 people injured, four of them seriously.

Authorities ruled out terrorism as the cause of Monday's crash. On March 11, 2004, Islamist militants bombed several commuter trains in the capital, Madrid, killing 191 people and injuring more than 1,500.

"The train began to go faster than usual and started to move from one side to the other," Cesar Hernandez Nunez, a 21-year-old student traveling in the second car, told the El Mundo newspaper. "Right after that it was chaos."

Some of the dead were still inside the derailed car hours after the accident, said Vicente Rambla of the regional Interior Ministry. About 150 people were evacuated from the Jesus station, authorities said.

Valencia's subway system was used by about 165,000 people a day last year, according to its website. The system has four lines and 116 stations.

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