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Crashed Spanish train going at twice speed limit

Written by: Staff

VALENCIA, Spain, July 4 (Reuters) A Spanish underground train was travelling at twice the speed limit when it derailed and killed 41 people, a Valencia city official said today.

Black box data showed the train was doing 80 km per hour through a curving tunnel just before entering the Jesus metro station yesterday in Spain's worst underground train accident, said Valencia's transport chief Jose Ramon Garcia.

''Without any doubt, this caused the derailing,'' Garcia told reporters.

An accident report by metro operator Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat Valenciana speculated that the driver, who was among those killed, might have suffered some type of sudden physical problem, newspaper El Pais said.

Valencia's train drivers' union, which had earlier said it suspected poor maintenance had caused the accident, accepted the train had been going too fast on a dangerous curve.

''We're sure something happened to the driver,'' said union chief Fernando Soto.

At least one survivor told Spanish media yesterday that the train had accelerated before braking suddenly just before the accident.

Another survivor said terrified passengers had begun to shout ''an attack, an attack'', recalling the Islamist train bombings which killed 191 people in Madrid in 2004. Officials ruled out a terror attack as the cause of the crash.

Valencia city authorities declared three days of mourning after the accident. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero cut short a visit to India to fly home to attend funerals today evening in Valencia, which is preparing for a visit by Pope Benedict.

The city government said all safety procedures had been followed on metro line one, which was opened in 1988, and that the train had been checked on June 27.

Emergency workers used chains to try to drag out two carriages which shot off the rails on a bend in the tunnel just before entering the Jesus metro station.

Survivors described smashing train windows to stagger out into a dark tunnel littered with dead and dying.

''I closed my eyes. I didn't want to see what was happening,'' said Arturo Terol, 65.

Two people were in critical condition today and another 45 people were hurt.


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