Loss of life averted as train derailed by landslide
Eleven people were injured, five seriously, when a passenger train travelling from St Moritz to Chur in eastern Switzerland was partially derailed by a landslide. Trees prevented one carriage from falling into a ravine, averting a greater tragedy.
Some 140 people were on board the train, operated by the Rhaetian Railway company. Eight Swiss, two Japanese and one Australian are among the injured. Their injuries are not life threatening. The remainder of the passengers walked to safety from the crash site.
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.
A spokesman for Rhaetian Railway said the carriages came off the tracks when the train hit a landslide. One carriage, saved from falling further by trees, came to rest 10 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 the village of Tiefencastel, some of them suffering from shock.
Divers were called in to prepare to search the overflowing River Alvra below the crash site, amid fears that another carriage had fallen into the water. But the theory was ruled out and all the passengers were accounted for within three hours.
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 from Israel 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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