Investigations opened into train derailment

One of the carriages was stopped from falling into the ravine by trees AFP

Two of the 11 people injured when a passenger train in eastern Switzerland was partially derailed by a landslide on Wednesday have now left hospital. Meanwhile, the authorities have opened probes into the accident.

This content was published on August 14, 2014 - 15:44 and agencies

Of those left in hospital, only three are now considered seriously injured instead of the original five, said the Rhaetian Railway company, which operated the train, at a specially convened press conference on Thursday.

Eight Swiss, two Japanese and one Australian were among the injured. “None of the people is in a life-threatening condition,” company director Hans Amacker told reporters in Tiefencastel, a town in Graubünden not far from the accident site. All passengers have been accounted for.

Some of the 140 passengers on the train have already left, with some having spent a night in Tiefencastel. The big challenge was getting the luggage back to its owners, he continued.

The accident happened on Wednesday afternoon in a steep wooded valley near Tiefencastel when the train emerged from a tunnel and hit a landslide covering the tracks. Three carriages were derailed by the impact.

One carriage, saved from falling further by trees, came to rest ten metres down the slope, pointing downwards.

A major rescue operation was launched involving 180 personnel and four helicopters, cantonal police said. After walking some distance along the tracks, the uninjured passengers were brought to Tiefencastel, some suffering from shock.

Probes started

Graubünden’s cantonal government said in a statementExternal link on Thursday that it was “affected” by the accident but relieved that the consequences of the accident had not been more serious. It thanked the emergency services for their work, praising it as “exemplary”.

It added that the cantonal public prosecutor had opened an investigation for the “final clarification of the circumstances that led to the train accident”. The weather risks will be observed closely by the authorities.

The Swiss Accident Investigation Board (SAIB) has also started an investigation.

At the Rhaetian Railway press conference, officials said there had been no indications that the accident site had been risky. Extra checks are made in problem areas including, when needed, observers sent to the site.

The carriage that came off the tracks and is now pointing downwards into the ravine weighs 17 tons and work will soon start on its salvage, railway officials said.

Lucky escape

It is generally agreed that the train had a lucky escape. Parliamentarian and board member of Rhaetian Railway Stefan Engler was one of the first to reach the scene. He told the Swiss News Agency that a “guardian angel” had been protecting the train and that luck had played an important role in the accident.

The landslide, which covered a 15-metre stretch of track and was three metres high in places, followed extremely heavy rain on Wednesday morning. Several weeks of heavy rainfall in the region meant the ground was already saturated.

The line, which serves the popular tourist region of Upper Engadine, will be closed for at least two days. Travellers have been advised to expect longer journey times.

The accident comes two days after three tourists were killed when the van they were travelling in was hit by a train at an unmanned level crossing near Lucerne in central Switzerland.

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