At least 39 people were killed and dozens injured when an express train travelling from Moscow to St Petersburg derailed on Friday. The national railway company said in a statement that the derailment may have been caused by a bomb.
AFP - Rescue workers searched for bodies on Saturday and investigators opened a terrorism probe after a Russian passenger train derailed overnight, reportedly killing 39 people and injuring nearly 100 more.
Television pictures showed the mangled metal of several overturned carriages of the Nevski Express, an expensive train that runs on the heavily traveled Moscow-Saint Petersburg route and is popular with foreign tourists.
The train derailed between Russia's Tver and Novgorod regions while heading north to Saint Petersburg late Friday, officials said, amid reports that witnesses heard a loud bang and a crater was found near the tracks.
"In all there are 39" dead, Alexander Basulin, an official at the emergency situations ministry, was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency. Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said 95 people were injured and hospitalised.
The chief of state-owned railroad firm Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin, said the wreck might have been caused by an explosive device.
"There are objective facts allowing investigators to consider one of the possible explanations to be an explosion, a planted explosive device," Yakunin said in televised remarks.
An unnamed security official was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that a one-metre-diametre (three-foot wide) crater was found near the scene of the disaster.
"Witnesses say they heard a loud bang before the accident. This could be proof of an attack," the source said.
The crater could have been caused by an "explosion from a device placed underneath one of the wagons," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted another security official as saying.
Prosecutors have opened a terrorism investigation into the train incident, Marina Gridneva, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor Generals Office, told Vesti-24 television.
"Two wagons were completely overturned.... Several people were completely crushed under the metal. I heard screams, moaning," Andrei Abramenko, a police officer who happened to be travelling on the train, said on Vesti-24.
The television station showed footage of rescuers working among the wreckage under powerful searchlights.
Four wagons of the 14-carriage train, carrying around 660 passengers and nearly two dozen staff, derailed at 9:34 pm (1834 GMT), according to the emergencies ministry.
At least three foreigners were on the train, ITAR-TASS reported, citing a source at Russian Railways. Other reports said that one Italian was among the hospitalised passengers.
The Nevski Express, a high-end train line aimed at relatively well-off Russians which runs along one of the country's most popular routes, has been attacked before.
In August 2007, a bomb on the same line derailed a train, injuring 60 passengers, with Chechen separatist or ultra-nationalist groups suspected.
Emergency services rushed to the scene of Friday evening's crash, and by 0100 GMT all the injured had been evacuated to local hospitals, Russia media reported.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the FSB security service and the Prosecutor Generals Office to investigate the causes of the derailment, the Kremlin said in a statement.
In Washington, the White House said it was "deeply saddened by the terrible loss of life and injuries" from the railway accident, spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
Date created : 2009-11-28