Nine die as train derails in Australia

Emergency workers work around a commuter train that derailed near Waterfall, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Sydney, for transport to hospital Friday, Jan. 31, 2003. At least nine people are confirmed dead and 15 seriously injured after a 4-car commuter train derailed in with about 70 on board.

(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Published: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 2:32 a.m.
SYDNEY, Australia - A train packed with commuters derailed during rush hour this morning outside Sydney, killing at least nine people and trapping others in the wreckage. All four of the train's cars lay crumpled or toppled along the tracks.
Rescue workers were trying to extricate passengers from the cars in the rough terrain of a ravine 20 miles south of downtown Sydney.
Nine people were confirmed dead and more were trapped in the wreckage, said New South Wales state Premier Bob Carr who visited the scene.
Police commissioner Dave Madden said 15 people were injured. "It's not a good scene," he said.
Stephen Leahy, a spokesman for a helicopter emergency service, likened the scene to a war movie with "bodies just strewn around."
The train, heading out of Sydney with about 70 people on board, was likely going about 50 mph when it jumped the rails near the village of Waterfall at about 7:30 a.m., emergency workers said.
The stretch of track was flanked by the steep embankments of the ravine, and rescue teams were having trouble with the terrain. Doctors and paramedics were winched out of helicopters to reach the scene.
Television images showed the front of the lead car crumpled, apparently after hitting a steel electrical pole. The next car was damaged from smashing into the first.
The two back cars were on their sides, but did not show great damage.
One survivor, 21-year-old Arnouska Zehalko, told her parents it was a scene of carnage.
"She just said there were people dead and injured everywhere," said Zehalko's mother Julie, who spoke to her daughter by mobile phone.
The train was traveling from Sydney to the steel works town of Port Kembla.
A major highway near the crash were closed to traffic so emergency services helicopters could land near the wreckage. At least three local hospitals put on standby to take casualties.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the accident. Crash investigators and police were on the scene.
New South Wales state Premier Bob Carr called the crash a "terrible tragedy" and said he would order an inquiry similar to one that followed a train crash west of Sydney in 1999 that left seven people dead.

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