Cleanup in train crash continues in southern Germany

BERLIN – Emergency workers on Thursday were working with two huge cranes to remove the wreckage of a head-on train crash that killed 10 people and injured dozens in southern Germany. They were also still looking for a missing black box hoping to get more clues about the cause of the accident.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn said the cleanup at the crash site in Bad Aibling, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of Munich, resumed at daybreak. The cranes, equipped with railway wheels, were positioned at both ends of the crashed trains to remove debris.

Deutsche Bahn didn’t say how long the cleanup would take.

Stefan Sonntag, a local police spokesman, said that several train cars had already been removed, but that it was very difficult to pull apart the two locomotives which were wedged into each other.

“The train engines have to be pulled apart very slowly because they’re under a lot of pressure,” Sonntag said. “It’s very dangerous because metal pieces could burst off during the process.”

Sonntag said that 21 injured were still in serious condition in hospitals and 62 were slightly injured. Authorities also said they had identified the tenth person killed. All fatalities were men aged between 24 and 60.

Authorities are trying to determine why multiple safety measures failed on Tuesday, allowing two trains to travel on the same single-line track and smash into each other. Investigators are considering possible technical errors, human failure or a combination of the two scenarios.

Both Germany’s train accident investigation office and local prosecutors are investigating.

Sonntag said it would take some time before any conclusions about the cause of the crash would be published.

The two trains were supposed to pass one another at a station where the track was divided. Also, a safety system installed on much of Germany’s huge rail network was supposed to automatically brake trains that end up on the same track heading toward each other. Instead, the two trains slammed into one another on a curve.

Deutsche Bahn said safety systems on the stretch where the crash occurred had been checked as recently as last week.

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