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Seven dead in UK train crash

POTTERS BAR, England -- Seven people have been killed and almost 90 others injured after a passenger train travelling at 100 mph derailed and hit a platform at a railway station north of London.

In addition to the fatalities, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Ambulance service told CNN that about 15 people had suffered life-threatening injuries while the walking wounded numbered around 70.

Five people died at the scene and two people died later in hospital.

Emma Kearney, a spokeswoman at Barnet General Hospital, said it was treating people with "open fractures and head and chest injuries."

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00 44 (0)845 944 1551  

She said several people were in a serious condition and that some of them were undergoing emergency surgery.

The 12.45 p.m. (1145 GMT) West Anglia Great Northern service was in the Potters Bar area of Hertfordshire when the accident happened.

It had earlier left London's King's Cross station bound for King's Lynn, in eastern England, with 151 passengers on board.

More than 20 ambulances were called to what many witnesses have described as a "scene of carnage."

A Sainsbury's supermarket store nearby was used as a makeshift first aid post.

CNN's Graham Jones, at the scene, said: "This is a modern station with four platforms and modern buildings -- but much of it has been destroyed.

"I can see the rear carriage of the train slewed across the platform and wedged under the platform canopy. It must have hit it at some speed.

"Also, the bridge entering into the station where the rail lines go over one of the main roads in Potters Bar is a tangled mass of wreckage where presumably the train must have hit before careering across the platforms."

He added: "It's a very shocking scene. People here are very upset." (Full story)

Eyewitness Sam Irving said: "There were people lying on the track and various members of the public were comforting them. Some had terrible wounds.

"People kept calm, there were no screams. All the local shops brought water and blankets.

"I saw at least two people who were dead. There was a lady who had blood pouring from her neck."

Another eyewitness, Marian McKee, who works in a nearby cafe, told reporters: "The front of the train was pointing up in the air.

"It has gone up onto the end wheels of the carriage and straight into the air, standing straight up." (More eyewitness reports)

Hertfordshire Police said in a statement: "This is being treated as a major incident and we are responding as a matter of urgency."

Kearney said one patient was being transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in London with neurological injuries.

"The types of injuries that we are dealing with are open fractures, head injuries and chest injuries, abdominal injuries, cuts and bruises," she said.

She added that many of the walking wounded had been taken to Chase Farm Hospital in nearby Enfield.

Railtrack, the company that owns and runs Britain's rail infrastructure, confirmed the train had four carriages, three of which had derailed.

The driver of the train, Andy Gibson, was not injured in the accident and gave "vital assistance" to passengers, said his union Aslef.

Gibson, from London, was said to be in "good shape" after speaking to union officials.

Mick Rix, Aslef's general secretary, told the UK's Press Association: "This is a terrible tragedy, first of all for those involved in the crash and the families of those who may be bereaved or injured, but also for the railway industry as a whole.

"We send our deepest sympathies to all concerned, but we also want to express our pride in the prompt and efficient action of driver Andy Gibson, who we understand rendered vital assistance to passengers on the train."

A statement from Downing Street said Prime Minister Tony Blair's "thoughts are with the relatives and friends of the dead and injured at this difficult time."

Royal officials said Queen Elizabeth II was "shocked and surprised" by the disaster.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers said in a statement: "All of our thoughts must be with the families and friends of those who have been killed or injured today in this tragic accident."

A Health and Safety Executive spokesman said: "Our Railway Inspectorate team are looking into this incident and are expected to travel to the scene soon."

Robin Gisby, regional director of Railtrack, said: "It's too early to say what caused the train to come off the track in the manner it did.

"This is a high-speed derailment. One passenger train crashed. No other train was involved.

"I don't know how fast the train was going. The usual speed along that stretch of line is 100mph.

"I am not aware there were any speed restrictions in place and since the next stop was Cambridge there was no reason to think the train was slowing down."

It is believed that any inquiry will look at several possible causes, including vandalism, mechanical fault on either the train or the signals, the state of the track and human error.

It is the UK's fifth major rail accident in five years and happened a few miles from Hatfield, where four people died when a GNER express came off the tracks in October 2000. (More on UK rail safety)

Chief Superintendent Andy Wright, of Hertfordshire Police, said: "In terms of the size and the scale of what has happened it is fair to say it has similarities to Hatfield.

"It is on the same line. Regrettably I was present at Hatfield some 18 months or so ago and it is comparable to that."

Two emergency numbers have been issued for those concerned about friends or relatives who may have been on the train: 00 44 (0)1707 354158 or 00 44 (0)845 944 1551.


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