STUDENKA, Czech Republic (Reuters) - An international express train hit a collapsed bridge at high speed in the Czech Republic on Friday, killing at least seven people and injuring about 70.
The EuroCity train, from the Polish city of Krakow to Prague, crashed at about 140 km per hour (87 mph) in Studenka, near the northeastern border with Poland.
“An international train from Krakow to Prague ran into a collapsed bridge which fell on the rails,” said Czech Railways spokesman Radek Joklik.
Officials said six bodies were found in the wreckage and the CTK news agency reported that a seventh person, a Ukrainian, died in hospital. A rescue services spokesman said 13 people were seriously hurt.
The Czech and Polish prime ministers, Mirek Topolanek and Donald Tusk, visited the scene to observe rescue efforts.
“There were many Poles on the train ... and unfortunately, apparently at least one of the dead is Polish,” Topolanek said on Czech television.
The nationalities of the other five people killed were not clear.
Pictures from the scene showed rescuers climbing into mangled green-and-white carriages, which had been thrown off the rails with the locomotive and were tangled in the ruins of the bridge.
“It looks terrible there,” said Jan Kucera of the Railway Inspectors. “The carriages are derailed and passengers are trapped.”
Rescuers said the bridge, which was being rebuilt, apparently collapsed while the train was approaching or passing underneath.
CTK said the driver saw the bridge collapsing, pulled the emergency brake and jumped into the engine compartment, surviving with slight injuries.
Passengers in the rear carriages were the least exposed.
“We went for a beer to the restaurant car, which is in the back,” news website www.idnes.cz quoted Janusz Recman as saying. “Suddenly we heard two bangs and everybody flew over the seats.”
Studenka is about 350 km (220 miles) east of Prague, close to the eastern Czech city of Ostrava and the Polish border.
A spokeswoman for Ostrava municipal hospital, Anna Vidisevska, said ambulances and a helicopter had brought in injured passengers.
“All staff have been called into service and we have freed a number of beds to make room,” she said.
Additional reporting by Jan Korselt in Prague and Gabriela Baczynska in Warsaw, writing by Jan Lopatka; editing by editing by Andrew Dobbie