Two trains running on the same track collided head-on (zderzyły się czołowo) in southern Poland last night, killing 15 people and leaving 56 injured.
As the severity (drastyczność) of the crash became known army helicopters (helikoptery) were deployed to the scene to race the most seriously injured (ciężko ranni) to hospital while a fleet of 450 emergency vehicles, 100 policemen and dozens of volunteer firemen clawed at the wreckage (wrak).
Officials have said it is too early to say what had caused the crash and Polish prosecutors have opened an investigation into how the head-on collision happened.
The two mangled (zniekształcone) trains, comprising 10 carriages in total, were carrying an estimated 350 passengers at the time of the crash.
Several of the passengers were foreigners, including people from Ukraine, Spain and France, but none of them appeared to be among the dead or badly injured.
‘The rescue is difficult and complicated,’ firefighter Jarosław Wojtasik told Polish television.
‘The damage to the wagons is huge. We have contact with victims. We are approaching very cautiously.’
Three coaches are reported to be especially damaged, and the rescue operation focused on finding passengers there.
Rescue workers ended their search for the wounded and prosecutors opened their investigation early Sunday.
One passenger estimated that his train was travelling about 120km/h (75 mph), when it started braking very sharply.
‘Then we felt a powerful impact, and we were thrown about the compartment,’ the passenger told TVN24.
Andrzej Pawłowski, a member of the board of the state railway company PKP, said in an interview that one of the trains, which was traveling south from Warsaw to Kraków, should not have been on the track.
The other train, headed from the eastern city of Przemyśl to Warsaw, was on the correct track, Mr Pawlowski said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the southbound train ended up on the wrong track.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk called the accident the most tragic train catastrophe in Poland in recent years after visiting the site in the early hours of today.
‘Even more dramatic than the pictures are the facts,’ Mr Tusk said. ‘This is our most tragic train disaster in many, many years.’
He arrived at the scene early on Sunday morning, with three other cabinet ministers.
Maintenance work was being carried out on one of the tracks where the collision occurred.
Polish President Bronisław Komorowski was also planning to visit the site on Sunday, his office said.
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)