Jul 25 2013, 10:00am CDT | by IANS
Madrid, July 25 — Spanish Prime minister Mariano Rajoy Thursday said the country would observe three days of official mourning after a train crash killed at least 78 people in the Galicia region of Spain Wednesday evening.
He will sign a decree Thursday, Rajoy, who is from the region of Galicia himself, said after arriving at the scene. He was expected to visit victims in hospital later, Xinhua reported.
Alberto Nunez Feijoo, head of the Spanish region of Galicia, earlier Thursday declared seven days of mourning in Galicia.
The train, which was travelling from Madrid to Ferrol and left the Chamartin Station in the capital at 3 p.m., derailed on a bend at 8:42 p.m. after coming out of a tunnel.
At least 13 carriages came off the rails with several lying on the side of an embankment with several of them catching fire. Reports said that several of the carriages literally flew through the air.
Early indications are that it could be the result of human error, while some survivors have said the train appeared to be travelling at a high speed on a curve with a speed limit of just 80 km an hour.
Investigators have indicated the train could have been travelling at 180 km per hour when it came off the rails. One of the drivers was reported to have confirmed the train took the curve prior to the accident at a speed of 200 km per hour.
The bend where the accident happened is reported to be the tightest between the cities of Ourense and Santiago and was described as a "difficult section" of the track by the ADIF, the company which administers the infrastructure of Spain's railways.
There are also unconfirmed reports of an explosion on board, just as the train entered the curve. The Spanish minister of the interior has, however, ruled out a terrorist attack.
There were 218 passengers plus crew aboard the train, which was especially full because Thursday is the holiday of St. John in Santiago, the patron saint of the region of Galicia and the start of a four-day weekend in the region.
The University Hospital at Santiago appealed for blood donors to help the victims of the crash and such was the response that all centres in the city were saturated with donors by 11.30 p.m.
It is the worst train accident Spain has suffered in the past 40 years and the third worst in the country's history, with a higher number of victims than the head-on collision in Chincilla (Albacete), which claimed 19 lives in 2003.
The country's worst ever rail accident happened in January 1944 on a train between Madrid and La Coruna with estimates of victims ranging from the official figure of 78 to over 500 dead.
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