100 Dead In German Train Wreck

Germany's fastest, most expensive passenger train derailed Wednesday, killing at least 100 people and injuring hundreds of others as section after section of the train flipped off the tracks and plowed into a railroad overpass.

The Munich-to-Hamburg train was traveling at 125 mph as it approached the Eschede station in northern Germany when at least 13 cars derailed. The force of the high-speed pileup threw train cars into the air and collapsed the overpass.

(CBS)
Several rail cars were demolished, and splintered glass covered the site 35 miles north of Hanover. Luggage was piled next to the wreckage as workers struggled to pry passengers from the twisted steel frames of the train cars.
Lower-Saxony state officials said 100 bodies had been recovered and at least 300 people were injured. But rescue coordinators, speaking at a news conference, reported 40 injured.

More than 800 emergency workers, including trauma surgeons, converged on the scene.

The high-speed ICE train costs more than regular trains and is used mostly by business people as a fast way to travel between Germany's major cities.

Aerial view of crash scene near Hanover, Germany (CBS)
The cause of the accident, which occurred just before 11 a.m., remained unclear. Police spokesman Joachim Lindenberg said it appeared that the train hit the overpass, collapsing it, and sending a car parked on the overpass onto the tracks.

The car belonged to a rail employee who was working along the tracks, Lindenberg told German television. He said anyone that close to the accident could not have survived.

Earlier reports, based on witness accounts to authorities, suggested that the car had plunged from the overpass into the train, causing it to derail.

Views of the wreckage offered no clear clue as to what caused the accident. The nose of the train had cleared the bridge, while the cars behind derailed and jack-knifed into each other.

A crane was brought in to lift chunks of the crumpled overpass so workers could reach the rail cars. Rescue workers in orange jumpsuits collected the dead, laying out their covered bodies on stretchers in a grassy field near the tracks. Fleets of ambulances transported the injured to hospitals.

The accident was the worst on Germany's premiere high-speed ICE line, which was inaugurated in 1991, and the deadliest in western Germany since World War II. It stopped rail traffic in both directions.

"[We are] deeply dismayed and horrified by the proportions of this accident," said one top rail official, eutsche Bahn executive Johannes Ludewig.

Federal Transport Minister Matthias Wissmann and German railway executives rushed to the scene, while the German border patrol sent helicopters and troops to help emergency efforts. Soldiers from a British army base at Herford, 80 miles away, were also called in.

The high-speed ICE are Germany's fastest trains, transporting 65,000 passengers daily. They connect all major German cities at speeds up to 175 mph, slightly slower than the Japanese bullet trains' top speed of 185 mph.

Germany's last serious train accident came in 1975, when 41 people were killed in the head-on collision of two express trains in Bavaria.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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