At least 18 dead as Bel­gian train speeds through red sig­nal and plows into sec­ond com­muter train

Cape Breton Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

BRUS­SELS, Bel­gium (AP) — A rush­hour com­muter train sped through a red sig­nal and slammed into an on­com­ing train as it left a sub­ur­ban Brus­sels sta­tion Mon­day, killing at least 18 peo­ple and dis­rupt­ing rail traf­fic in north­ern Europe.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions into one the worst ac­ci­dents on the Bel­gian rails were likely to fo­cus on whether hu­man er­ror was re­spon­si­ble or if it could have been in­flu­enced by the per­sis­tently freez­ing tem­per­a­tures that have iced up the Euro­pean cap­i­tal.

Of­fi­cials said 80 peo­ple were in­jured, 20 of them se­ri­ously, and the death toll — 15 men and three women — was not con­sid­ered fi­nal. As dark­ness fell more than 10 hours later, res­cuers were still looking for vic­tims in the wreck­age, said Jos Colpin, the spokesman for the fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice.

The fate of the two driv­ers was not im­me­di­ately known, and of­fi­cials said they were hav­ing dif­fi­culty iden­ti­fy­ing some of the vic­tims.

The trains, car­ry­ing a to­tal of about 300 pas­sen­gers, col­lided in light snow just out­side of the sta­tion at Buizin­gen about 9 miles (15 kms) from Brus­sels around 8:30 a.m. (0730 GMT).

The im­pact peeled away the front of one train car and threw at least one other off the tracks, sev­er­ing the limbs of some pas­sen­gers, wit­nesses and of­fi­cials said. One en­gine was thrust high into the air and snapped over­head power lines.

“ When we came out we saw dead bodies ly­ing next to the tracks, some mu­ti­lated,” said Pa­tri­cia Lalle­mand, 40, who was in a mid­dle car of one train and was un­hurt.

Lodewijk De Witte, the gov­er­nor of the prov­ince of Flem­ish Bra­bant, told re­porters one train “ap­par­ently did not heed a stop light.”

One of the front cars ap­peared to have ca­reened across the tracks, de­mol­ish­ing a small main­te­nance shed next to the rail line. A high con­crete wall around the train yard seemed to have kept de­bris from hit­ting nearby houses.

Her­man van Rom­puy, pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, ex­pressed his “shock and sor­row” over the ac­ci­dent. King Bau­douin and Prime Min­is­ter Leterme, who can­celled a trip to Kosovo mo­ments af­ter land­ing in Pristina, vis­ited the crash site.

It was the first se­ri­ous Bel­gian train ac­ci­dent since March 28, 2001, when eight peo­ple died when a crowded train plowed into an empty train driv­ing on the wrong tracks. The worst Euro­pean crash in re­cent his­tory was near the Ger­man town of Eschede in 1998 when around 100 peo­ple were killed when a cracked wheel hurled a train off the tracks.

Bel­gian Na­tional Rail­ways spokesman Jochen Goovaerts said his agency was await­ing the out­come of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore dis­cussing the cause of Mon­day’s ac­ci­dent. RIYADH, Saudi Ara­bia (AP) — U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton said Mon­day Iran is slid­ing into a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, a new as­sess­ment sug­gest­ing a rock­ier road ahead for U.S.-led ef­forts to stop Tehran from ob­tain­ing a nu­clear weapon.

As the first high-level Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial to make such an ac­cu­sa­tion, Clin­ton was re­flect­ing an ever-dim­ming out­look for per­suad­ing Iran to ne­go­ti­ate lim­its on its nu­clear pro­gram, which it has in­sisted is in­tended only for peace­ful pur­poses. The U.S. and oth­ers — in­clud­ing the two Gulf coun­tries Clin­ton vis­ited Sun­day and Mon­day — be­lieve Iran is headed for a nu­clear bomb ca­pa­bil­ity.

Clin­ton also was re­veal­ing the logic of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to tar­get the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps with a new round of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions in­tended to com­pel Iran to curb its nu­clear am­bi­tions be­fore it in­creases the like­li­hood of a mil­i­tary clash.

Clin­ton flew to Riyadh, the Saudi cap­i­tal, and then was driven in King Ab­dul­lah’s pri­vate bus about 65 miles north­east to Raw­dat Khu­rayim.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Res­cue work­ers and po­lice­men work in and around two passenger trains that col­lided in Bel­gium, Mon­day. Early re­ports say at least 18 peo­ple have been killed in a head-on col­li­sion be­tween two trains out­side the cap­i­tal, Brus­sels. Of­fi­cials say the trains col­lided dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour in snowy con­di­tions.

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