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3 dead as train derails, hits highway in Washington

19 December 2017 15:04

 

An Amtrak passenger train traveling on a new route for the first time derailed in the US state of Washington, killing at least three people as cars plunged off a bridge onto a busy highway at the height of morning rush hour, officials said.

The train, which was carrying 77 passengers and seven crew, derailed in DuPont about halfway between Tacoma and the state capital Olympia on a curve that passes over busy Interstate 5 at about 7:40 am (1540 GMT) Monday.

Pictures from the scene showed one Amtrak train car overturned and crushed on the interstate highway and others dangling from the overpass.

Several other carriages of the 14-car train also ended up on the highway, shutting down a key section of the busy artery that connects the greater Seattle metropolitan area to Olympia. All but one car jumped the tracks.

A spokeswoman for Washington State police, Brooke Bova, confirmed the death toll, adding that all train cars had been searched by emergency personnel.

Work crews survey the scene of an Amtrak train derailment, in DuPont, Washington, December 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

But she cautioned that several of the roughly 100 people taken to area hospitals were in critical condition.

“We don’t know if that number will change,” Bova said of the death toll.

Officials gave no reason for the derailment of southbound Amtrak train 501, the inaugural run of a new service that promised faster connections between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

The scene of a portion of the Interstate I-5 highway after an Amtrak high speed train derailled from an overpass early December 18, 2017 near the city of Tacoma, Washington state. (Photo by AFP)

Local officials had warned only weeks ago that the track still might not be safe enough to handle trains at higher speeds.

Police said five vehicles and two trucks were hit on the highway.

The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team of experts to investigate the incident.

Amtrak president and co-chief executive Richard Anderson said he was “deeply saddened” by the crash.

Work crews prepare to clear southbound I-5 lanes at the scene of an Amtrak train derailment on December 18, 2017 in DuPont, Washington. (Photo by AFP)

The accident marred the launch of faster services on the route after a $181 million upgrade project that included improving the rails, the signaling technology and the locomotives.

Local officials had worried about trains going at higher speeds through the curves in the area. The trains were expected to reach speeds of 79 miles (127 kilometers) per hour through the densely populated area with the improved systems and track.

Karnes said the tracks were supposed to have been upgraded to accommodate higher speeds.

Trump: US needs better infrastructure

US President Donald Trump said the accident underscored the need to invest in infrastructure.

“Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!” he tweeted.

He also pointed to the issue during his much anticipated national security strategy, at the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington.

(Source: AFP)

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