GENEVA (AFP) - A landslide derailed a passenger train in the Swiss mountains on Wednesday sending one carriage plunging into a ravine, but it appeared that miraculously there had been no deaths.
Police said five people were seriously injured and six slightly hurt in the accident on the line between the upscale mountain resort of St. Moritz and the eastern city of Chur.
Terrified passengers crowded into the rear of another carriage in a bid to prevent it from tipping over the edge.
“The train made an emergency stop in the middle of nowhere,” passenger Stevens Bockor was quoted as saying by news website 20Minuten. “We all rushed to the back of the carriage to put all of our weight there, so that it didn’t tip into the abyss,” he said.
Photos in Swiss media showed one of the bright-red carriages lying precariously on the ravine’s slope, some 10m from the track, its fall apparently blocked by the dense pine forest. Another carriage remained perched on the edge of the track, half of it hanging over the ravine. In front of it was a broad swathe of mud and rock, which had cut across the hillside rail line.
The eight-carriage train, operated by eastern Swiss regional company Rhaetische Bahn, derailed at around 12:45pm on an isolated stretch of track in the forest near the picturesque village of Tiefencastel.
Rhaetische Bahn spokesman Simon Rageth told AFP that a landslide was to blame.
The landslide did not appear to have struck the carriage directly, with regional police saying the train had run into the debris.
“At least three carriages were derailed. According to an initial count, five people were seriously injured and six lightly hurt,” police said in a statement.
Four helicopters rushed to the scene, swiftly taking the injured to several hospitals.
“There were around 200 people on the train,” police said, adding that those who were unhurt made their way down the line to Tiefencastel, where paramedics treated them for shock.
The region has been lashed by heavy rain in recent days and waterlogged earth is a common cause of landslides. Last month, storms sparked landslides that blocked several lines, including between the capital Bern and the western city of Fribourg, as well as from Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva to the mountain town of Zweisimmen. July’s rain also flooded another line near Bern and forced the closure of several roads.
The Swiss are Europe’s top rail-users, and their network is envied abroad for safety and quality.
After an accident-free 2012, safety has again made headlines. In July 2013, a head-on collision blamed on signal-jumping killed a driver and injured 25 people near Payerne in western Switzerland.
Wednesday’s accident comes just two days after three Israeli tourists died and five were seriously injured when a train hit their minibus at an ungated level crossing in the central Swiss Alps.