Officials are investigating whether speeding caused a train carrying about 240 people to derail in Spain. The Spanish premier has declared three days of mourning for the many victims who lost their lives in the crash.
"Today I will sign a decree declaring three days of official mourning in all of Spain," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told reporters after visiting the site in Santiago de Compostela on Thursday.
At least 78 people were killed and more than 140 injured when a train crashed outside the northern city of Santiago de Compostela, Spanish media reported Thursday. A Galicia court official confirmed the figures.
The train, thought to have been carrying at least 238 passengers, derailed at about 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT). It had been traveling from Madrid to the northern town of Ferrol.
Television footage showed bodies covered in blankets lying next to four overturned carriages. At least one of the carriages was ripped apart with black smoke billowing from the wreckage.
"There are bodies lying on the railway track," the head of Spain's Galicia region, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, told news radio station Cadena Ser.
"It's a Dante-esque scene," he added.
Investigation under way
Speculation is rife over what may have caused the train to derail. Spanish public television TVE speculated it may have been speeding, however, state-owned rail company Renfe said it remained too early to tell what caused the accident.
"There is an investigation under way and we have to wait. We will know what the speed is very soon when we consult the train's black box," a Renfe spokesman said.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who was born in Santiago de Compostela, held an emergency meeting with ministers late on Wednesday. He visited the scene of the accident on Thursday.
"I want to express my affection and solidarity with the victims of the terrible train accident in Santiago," he said in a Twitter message.
The crash stuck on the eve of the city's main festival in honor of Saint James, which attracts thousands of Christian pilgrims every year.
It also came less than two weeks after a passenger train derailed just south of Paris, killing six people and injuring 30 more.
ccp/jm (AFP, Reuters)