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One dead, many hurt as Dutch train hits crane

One dead, dozens injured in Dutch rail crash
Source: Video Screenshot

A Dutch passenger train derailed after smashing into a crane early on Tuesday, killing a maintenance worker and injuring 30 other people in the Netherlands’ worst rail accident for years.

The double-decker train carrying around 50 people from Leiden to The Hague veered off the tracks near the village of Voorschoten at around 3:30 am (0130 GMT), ending up partly in a field.

The Dutch infrastructure minister said it was a “miracle” that more people had not been killed in the crash, in which a freight train also hit the crane as it made overnight repairs on two out of four tracks.

King Willem-Alexander later visited the site of the crash, where one of the damaged yellow and blue passenger carriages lay in a meadow while the three others were strewn across the rails.

People living near the scene, around eight kilometres (five miles) north of The Hague, helped the victims and let medics treat the injured in their homes.

“We heard a bang first and then later a much more intense one,” local resident Chris van Engelenburg, 36, told AFP.

“Then we heard people screaming. It was not good.”

The dead victim was an employee of rail maintenance company BAM, the firm said.

Thirty people were injured, with 19 taken to hospital and 11 treated at the scene, emergency services confirmed.

Three of the victims were in intensive care in a “very serious but stable” condition, Dutch media reported.

– ‘Black day’ –

Dutch police and prosecutors said they had launched a criminal investigation, while rail authorities and the country’s safety board are probing the cause of the crash.

The head of the rail network company ProRail, John Voppen, said it was a “black day for the Dutch railways”.

Maintenance work involving the crane was under way when the crash happened, with two out of four tracks in the area being out of use.

“We really don’t know what happened,” Voppen told a press conference.

The head of Dutch train operator NS, Wouter Koolmees, said the “devastation is very big”. The driver of the passenger train was in hospital with bone fractures, he added.

Emergency services described a “chaotic situation” with rescue workers having to use wooden boards to get across a narrow canal, while watching for danger from damaged electrical cables.

Video taken by one passenger shows people using mobile phone torchlights as they tried to smash their way through emergency exits, while voices can be heard shouting “leave the train”.

Local resident Jaron Ooms, 45, said it was “really scary”.

“We heard a very loud bang and for sure the house started to shake heavily,” Ooms told AFP.

– ‘Speechless’ –

King Willem-Alexander, wearing an orange high-visibility vest, spoke to emergency workers and walked along the tracks when he visited the scene.

“I’m just speechless right now seeing this,” said the Dutch monarch.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte described it in a tweet as a “terrible train accident”.

No trains will run from Leiden to The Hague for the rest of Tuesday and services will be disrupted for several days.

But international Eurostar trains linking Amsterdam with London and Thalys services to Brussels and Paris were unaffected.

The accident was the most serious in the Netherlands for years, according to public broadcaster NOS.

The Netherlands’ worst rail disaster happened on January 8, 1962, when two passenger trains crashed in thick fog at Harmelen, near Utrecht, killing 93 people and injuring 52 others.

One person was killed and six injured when a train collided with a hydraulic crane in the central Netherlands in 2016.

Another person died and 117 were injured in a collision near Amsterdam in 2012 with reports later saying a driver failed to obey a stop sign.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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