POSTED: 01:02 p.m. HST, Jul 24, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 02:52 p.m. HST, Jul 24, 2013
MADRID » A passenger train derailed in northwestern Spain earlier tonight, killing at least 35 people and leaving hundreds injured, officials said.
Alberto Nunez Feijoo, president of the region of Galicia, said at least 35 people aboard the train were killed.
State-owned train operator Renfe said in a statement that 218 passengers and an unspecified number of staff were on board at the time of the accident. Renfe did not give an estimate of the numbers of dead or injured.
Feast day festivities planned in the city of Santiago de Compostela were cancelled, town hall spokeswoman Maria Pardo told Spanish National television TVE.
A photographer at the scene said he saw dozens of what appeared to be dead bodies being extracted from the wreck by emergency workers. TVE showed footage of what appeared to be several bodies covered by blankets alongside the tracks next to the damaged train wagons.
The photographer, Xabier Martinez, told The Associated Press that he also spoke to two injured train passengers who said they felt a strong vibration before the derailing.
The accident occurred along a high-speed stretch of track near the train station in Santiago de Compostola, 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of El Ferrol. Rescue workers were seen in the television images caring for people still inside some of the wagons.
Television footage also showed one wagon pointing upwards into the air with one of its ends twisted and disfigured. Another carriage had left the track altogether and could be seen resting on a nearby road.
The train, which belongs to the state-owned Renfe company, was headed to El Ferrol from Madrid.
Officials at the Interior Ministry and the Adif rail infrastructure authority did not immediately answer telephone calls or return messages seeking comment. Officials with Renfe also did not immediately return messages seeking comment.