7 dead, 67 injured after train rams into Czech bridge

Other News Materials 8 August 2008 20:57 (UTC +04:00)

Seven people died and 67 were injured Friday after a speeding international train slammed into a collapsed bridge structure in eastern Czech Republic, firefighters said, reported dpa.

Five women and one man were killed in the crash, while another passenger succumbed to injuries in hospital, according to fire services.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek speaking from the scene said that at least one fatality was Polish, corroborating earlier comments from railway inspection spokesman Jan Kucera who had said that one victim was Polish and five Czech.

Polish premier Donald Tusk also arrived to the scene of the wreckage, local media said.

According to fire services, the 67 passengers taken to hospital included one Ukrainian, two Slovaks, two French nationals and at least 10 Poles.

The Eurocity train from Krakow to Prague rammed into the structure after it fell onto the tracks from a bridge under reconstruction on the outskirts of the north-eastern town of Studenka, spokesman for Czech Railways Radek Joklik said.

The engine driver, who sustained slight injuries, had noticed that the bridge structure was "swinging" in front of the approaching train, Joklik said.

He applied speed brakes, slowing the train from 135 kilometres per hour to some 120 kilometres per hour, and took cover in the engine's machine room, according to Kucera.

The subsequent impact derailed the train's engine and four of its 10 cars as well as three stationary cargo cars on a side track, he said.

"The engine driver did all he could to stop the train," Kucera said.

Some 20 firefighting units rushed to the scene to free the victims from the wrecked cars, while helicopters and ambulances shuttled the injured to local hospitals, firefighters said.

Hospitals in the region have put on hold scheduled surgeries and asked volunteers to donate blood.

Trains from the Czech Republic to neighbouring Poland and Slovakia are to run with delays on detour tracks.

The cause of the bridge collapse was not immediately known and is under investigation, police said.