Train collision kills at least 20 outside Brussels

10:33, February 16, 2010      

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At least 20 people were killed on Monday morning after two passenger trains collided head-on outside Brussels, local media reported.


Emergency crew work on the site where two trains crashed near Halle February 15, 2010. Two trains crashed head-on outside Brussels on Monday, killing at least 20 people, officials and Belgian broadcaster VRT said. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

The two commuter trains collided at about 8:45 a.m. local time (0745 GMT), the height of morning rush hour, in the Belgian town of Halle, some 15 km southwest of Brussels.

There has been no official announcement of casualties but local broadcaster VRT cited the mayor of Halle as saying at least 20 died and many others were injured, while Belgian National Railways said 25 people were killed.


Emergency crew work on the site where two trains crashed near Halle February 15, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Lodewijk De Witte, governor of the province of Flemish Brabant where Halle is located, told VRT that 10 people had lost their lives and 11 more, including a child, were in a serious condition.

There are still passengers trapped in the trains, according to Xinhua reporters at the scene.

Rail track operator Infrabel said the two trains crashed head-on, according to VRT.

One of the trains was traveling from the Flemish town of Leuven, east of Brussels, to Braine-le-Comte, south of the city. The other was traveling from the town of Quievrain, on the French border, to the industrial city of Liege.

Local television coverage showed a devastating scene, with two carriages pushed up into the air. It was snowing as emergency services attended the scene.

Leire Wira, a local resident whose house is very near the scene, told Xinhua reporters he was woken by the collision.

"It was terrible. The emergency teams were there, but it is difficult to get access to the carriages," he said.


Rescue team workers retrieve victims of a train crash on the site of the crash near Halle February 15, 2010.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Train services, including the high-speed line between Brussels and Paris, have been cancelled. The Eurostar train service between Brussels and London was also suspended.

"Services in and out of Brussels are completely suspended until further notice," the company said in a statement. "It is possible that services will remain suspended all day."

The accident forced Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme to cancel a trip to Kosovo.

Leterme's plane turned back minutes after landing at Pristina's main airport, according to the Kosovo prime minister's office.

A crisis centre was set up in Leuven and officials of the Belgian public prosecutor's office were at the scene to conduct an investigation, but the reason for the crash remains unclear.

Governor De Witte said one of the trains ignored a red signal and this caused the collision. Meanwhile, railway officials said there was no problem with the operation of both trains, but one of them started about 10 minutes behind schedule.

The accident has added to disruption on Belgian public transport caused by recent snowfalls.

Source: Xinhua
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