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Derailed LPG train explosion leaves 13 dead

30 June 2009

At least 13 people have been killed and some 50 injured when two gas-filled rail tankers exploded after derailing in northern Italy engulfing homes in flames. Late on Monday evening, the rail vehicles jumped the tracks and crashed into several homes, setting off a serious fire in the seaside town of Viareggio in Northern Italy with a population of 50,000.

Tuscan train crash
Tuscan train crash

The rear of the train crashed into a residential neighbourhood just outside the railway station in the Tuscan town. The explosion caused at least two buildings to collapse and caused fires to spread over the immediate area. Of the 50 people, at least 35 were hospitalised with severe burns, 15 were in a critical condition.

Hundreds of firefighters from across the region were rushed to the area to help with the rescue operation and ensure remaining tankers do not catch fire. Luca Lunardini the city’s mayor said that a thousand people have been evacuated from the area because of the danger of further explosions.

The 14-carriage freight train was transporting liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) came off the rails in the coastal town, which is just northwest of Pisa, the train’s intended destination.

The commander of the firefighters at the scene reported that the cars flipped over on their sides on the track and the gas spread out among the nearest houses before exploding with dozens of small homes caught in the blast. One of the tasks of the firefighters and notably the specialised chemical accident units was to try to make sure the rest of the tankers don't catch fire and explode. Some 300 firefighters from neighbouring regions had been mobilised. The work was reported to very difficult because of the fluid nature of the liquid gas.

The train's two engineers were only slightly injured and were questioned in the hospital, They said they felt an impact some 200m outside the station, shortly before the rear of the train flew off the tracks. Early indications are that the incident may have been caused by damage to the tracks or a problem with the train's braking system.

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