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'Scene From Hell' At Site Of Spanish Train Crash

NPR icon by Mark Memmott
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Miguel Vidal

The death toll is approaching 80, scores more were wounded and the eyewitness accounts are sobering in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, after Wednesday's crash of a high-speed passenger train.

Reuters writes that "in what one local official described as a scene from hell, bodies covered in blankets lay next to the overturned carriages as smoke billowed from the wreckage after the disaster. ... Cranes were still pulling out mangled debris on Thursday morning, 12 hours after the crash."

"The scene is shocking, it's Dante-esque," the head of the Galicia region, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, said in a radio interview, according to The Guardian.

A man who went to help, 47-year-old baker Ricardo Martinez, tells the wire service that:

"We heard a massive noise and we went down the tracks. I helped getting a few injured and bodies out of the train. I went into one of the cars but I'd rather not tell you what I saw there."

It's thought that the train may have been going too fast. "Media reports say the train may have been travelling at more than twice the speed limit around a curve," reports the BBC.

According to NPR's Sylvia Poggioli, "the El Pais daily quoted investigators saying that the trian was travelling at more than twice the speed limit on a sharp curve" when it derailed. Bloomberg News adds that "the train was traveling at 190 kilometers per hour [118 mph] as it entered the section of track, which has a speed limit of 80 kph [50 mph], El Pais newspaper reported, citing a radio conversation between the driver and train control staff.

Santiago de Compostela is in northwest Spain, near the Atlantic coast.

On Morning Edition, Time magazine's Lisa Abend spoke with host David Greene about the accident.

Update at 8 a.m. ET. Video Of The Crash:

Sky News is among those who have obtained surveillance footage of the train coming around the bend and then derailing. As Sky cautions, the video "contains graphic footage." So do not click play unless you're sure you want to see what happens.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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