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At least 22 people were killed on Tuesday and dozens injured in a head-on collision between two passenger trains in the southern Italian region of Puglia, in one of the country's worst rail accidents in recent years.
Emergency services raced to extract people from the wreckage of smashed carriages thrown across a single track into olive groves near the town of Andria, in what one witness described as an "apocalyptic scene".
Coffins were taken to the site near the city of Bari to carry away the first of the dead as 200 rescue workers sifted through the wreckage in temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
"I saw dead people, others who were begging for help, people crying. The worst scene of my life," one policeman told journalists.
Giancarlo Conticchio, head of the railway police for the region, said 22 people had died, and 43 were injured, four of them critically.
"We will be working through the night to search the wreckage for survivors or other victims," he said.
Italian media put the death toll at 23, saying among the dead were a mother and child, found locked in an embrace.
The site of the crash , in Puglia on Italy's heel. Photo: Google Maps
"Some of the carriages are utterly crumpled and the rescue services are pulling people out, many are wounded," Riccardo Zingaro, head of traffic police in Andria, told journalists from the scene.
The high-speed collision happened on a slight bend in the track in open countryside and flung the front carriages of both trains into olive groves bordering the line, slinging bits of metal from the wreckage.
Investigators said at least one of the trains had been travelling very fast, and it was possible the collision was caused by human error.
One of the four-carriage trains was supposed to have waited at a station for a green light before heading down the track between the towns of Corato and Andria. One of the train drivers was confirmed to have died.
"This is a disaster like a plane crash," Corato mayor Massimo Mazzilli said on Facebook.
Rescue workers look for passengers among the wreck. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi interrupted a speech in Milan to express his grief for the victims of the disaster.
“We won't rest until we understand how this happened,” he added, saying he would return immediately to Rome.
Investigators are looking into the cause of the disaster, but say it might have been down to human error.
The smash badly affected the front two carriages of each train. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco
After leaving the scene of the disaster, Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Graziano Delrio, announced that a commission would be set up to investigate the causes.
This article first appeared on www.thelocal.it
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