Picture shows surrounding olive groves littered with debris after the collision.
At least 25 people have died while dozens sustained injuries after two passenger trains crashed head-on at high speed in Italy, reports confirm. The two trains were said to be on a single track between the coastal towns of Bari and Barletta.
Emergency services have been working non-stop to free passengers from the shattered carriages.
A toddler was pulled from the wreckage and has since been airlifted to a hospital. The kid is said to have sustained unspecified injuries whereas another survivor had surgery for serious spinal fractures.
Local authorities have appealed to the general public, asking for blood donors to come forward and help save lives.
“An incredible, shocking scene,” one police officer at the scene told the Italian news agency ANSA. “I saw dead people, others who were crying for help, people who were crying. It was the most terrible scene I have seen in my life.”
Rescue workers say the casualties which currently stand at 25, could see a rise as some of the 50 injured passengers are in critical conditions.
According to media reports, the crash happened at around 11.30 a.m. (0930 GMT) when the temperature was nearing its peak on a very hot summer day–above 33C.
There was no immediate indication of what had caused one of Italy’s worst train disasters in recent years, but the government promised a full and swift investigation.
Commander Giancarlo Conticchio of the railway police told Sky TG24: “Surely one of the two trains shouldn’t have been there. And surely there was an error,” he said. “We need to determine the cause of the error.”
Image: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on a visit to the crash site.
“Tears and grief for the victims and their families, but also a lot of anger. We demand clarity over what happened in Puglia this morning,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Twitter. He followed up his tweet with a quick visit to the accident site to meet with rescuers and local politicians though he had scheduled an official visit to Milan before the incident.
“We will remain at the side of the people of Puglia in this moment of great pain and desperation,” he added.
Renzi also assured that the country’s Transport Minister Graziano Delrio would report to parliament on the accident on Wednesday.
The front carriages out of the total four on each of the two ill-fated trains, were said to have squeezed as they slammed into one another. Sky Italia TV said one of the drivers had died, with no word yet about the fate of the other one.
“It looks like there has been a plane crash,” said the mayor of Corato, Massimo Mazzilli.
As rescuers retrieve corpses from the wreckage into metal caskets, a number of ambulances and fire trucks were parked among the olive trees where a field hospital has been assembled to treat the injured.
“I dug through the wreckage and managed to save my husband. But I saw people cut to pieces,” said an elderly woman standing alongside her husband, whose head was swathed in bandages. Another survivor said he was thrown to the floor by the impact. “When I got up, I saw hellish scenes around me.”
Helicopters landed in numbers at a nearby field to pick up the most seriously injured.
It was not clear how many people had been on the trains at the time of the collision. By mid-afternoon a giant crane had arrived at the scene to start lifting the smashed carriages to see if any bodies were trapped under the wreckage.
The stretch of track is operated by a small, private rail company Ferrotramviaria.
Lots of people voluntarily came to nearby hospitals to donate blood right after the train accident.
“It is unacceptable that such incidents can still occur in 2016, and even more unacceptable that to speak about ‘human error’,” said Carlo Rienzi, president of the consumer group, Codacons.
“All the railway lines in the world benefit from the most advanced technology available to avoid collisions, derailments and errors.
“Today’s tragedy demonstrates how the railway transport in southern Italy is still at an intolerable level.”
Eleonora Forenza, a European MP from Bari, said it was “incomprehensible” that such a popular railway line was on a single track.
Image: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi