Death toll climbs in Italy train explosion

Firemen check a wrecked freight train in Italy after gas tankers exploded.
The death toll climbed to at least 12 in a gas explosion on a freight train in western Italy, officials said Tuesday.

A child was among those killed, said Antonio Garufi, a local government official. The number of injured had risen to 36, with 16 in critical condition. Most of the injuries were burns. Two children were among the severely burned, said Guido Bertolaso, head of the Italian civil protection agency. The train was carrying gas tanks when it derailed and exploded while passing through a station in the coastal town of Viareggio. The explosion happened about 11:45 p.m. (2145 GMT) Monday. The cargo train had nine tank-wagons full of gas, four of which turned over. The train was traveling from La Spezia to Pisa, Garufi said. The station and a few nearby buildings caught fire and were evacuated, he added. “The search and rescue operation are not over and will not be over before this evening,” Bertolaso said. Not all the victims have been identified, because burns have complicated the process, he added. About 300 people have been evacuated from the area around the explosion, which is not considered safe yet and remains off limits. Fire crews were working to secure the area and clearing up the rail tracks, Bertolaso said. He did not estimate how long the operation would take. “If someone thinks that the danger phase is over, it is not so,” he said. Locals described the horrific scene. “I heard the explosion and I went out into the street to find myself faced with flames and a motionless charred body lying on the ground,” a witness told the Italian news agency ANSA. “It was a terrifying scene which I will never forget,” added the witness, who works at a nearby pharmaceutical company. “We couldn’t do anything for the body except cover it up.” Another witness described how a young girl caught in the blast as she rode past on her scooter threw herself on the ground to extinguish her burning clothes, ANSA reported. One of the train drivers told of their escape. “The drivers cabin was filled with the gas, we managed to escape. We are alive, it is a miracle.” Investigators were exploring the possibility that a broken axle on one of the wagons broke, derailing the container and its cargo of gas, said ANSA.