US passenger train derails near Philadelphia, at least 7 killed

Emergency personnel man a barricade near the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed on May 12, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. -- PHOTO: AFP
Emergency personnel man a barricade near the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed on May 12, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. -- PHOTO: AFP
Members of the Block Church gather supplies to supply emergency personnel working at the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed on May 12, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Penn
Members of the Block Church gather supplies to supply emergency personnel working at the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed on May 12, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. -- PHOTO: AFP
Emergency workers search for the injured after an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York derailed on May 12, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. -- PHOTO: AFP
Emergency workers search for the injured after an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York derailed on May 12, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. -- PHOTO: AFP
Emergency responders search for passengers following an Amtrak train derailment in the Frankfort section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 12, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Emergency responders search for passengers following an Amtrak train derailment in the Frankfort section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 12, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PHILADELPHIA (AFP) - Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least seven dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued.

Mayor Michael Nutter said the death toll could rise from the derailment on the busy north-east US rail corridor as some of the 243 people on the train had not been accounted for.

He gave the injury toll as 65 but local media said it had risen to more than 140, based on a tally of people sent to local hospitals.

Herbert Cushing, the chief medical officer at Temple University Hospital, told reporters the death toll rose to six after a patient died during the night.

It later rose to seven, although no details were available about the victim or their circumstances, NBC’s Washington affiliate, WRC, said.

Witnesses said the front of Amtrak Train 188, heading from Washington DC to New York, shook as it went into a turn and crashed at about 9:30pm on Tuesday (0130 GMT Wednesday).

Shell-shocked and bleeding travelers were seen limping from the wreckage, while rescue teams with flashlights searched the seven derailed cars of the train, one of which was completely flattened.

Wheels from the train cars lay scattered by the tracks.

The cause of the crash, which came as the train negotiated a long bend, was not immediately known, although there was been no indication that it was a terrorist attack. Nutter refused to speculate on whether it was going too fast.

“It is an absolute disastrous mess,” Nutter told reporters.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life.” Max Helfman, 19, was with his mother in the last car of the train, which had no seatbelts, when they suddenly felt it shake and the car then flipped over.

“People were thrown to the ground,” Helfman told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Chairs inside the train became unscrewed and suitcases were falling on people. My mother flew into me and I literally had to catch her. People were bleeding from their head. It was awful.” Hydraulic tools had to be used to remove passengers from some of the most badly damaged train cars, firefighters said.

“I’ve never seen anything so devastating. They are in pretty bad shape,” said Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer, referring to the train cars.

Former US Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, who was on the train, said he was sitting in the cafe car when it began to topple.

“It went to my right, then to my left. Everyone who was on the left side of the car, where I was sitting, just got thrown completely over to the right side.” Murphy said the train seemed to be going 60kmh -70kmh when it suddenly derailed and rolled. Some passengers had to kick out windows to escape.

Jeremy Wladis, 51, was on the last car of the train when he felt the jolt. He said he saw “phones, laptops, everything flying", the Inquirer reported.

Train services between Philadelphia and New York were likely to be suspended for the rest of the week, the mayor said.

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board was to arrive in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Heavy equipment to lift the train cars would also be deployed in daylight, the mayor said.

The train had so much force at the time of the crash that it bent the sturdy rail tracks in at least one area.

Train 188, a Northeast Regional rail service train, left Washington shortly after 7 pm (2300 GMT) and was due to arrive in New York at 10:34 pm.

Train operator Amtrak and various agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, were investigating the cause of the crash.

 

My train crashed

A video posted by Yameen Allworld "Holladay" (@yameenallworld) onMay 12, 2015 at 6:35pm PDT