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9 Feb, 2016 07:13

9 dead, 150+ injured after 2 passenger trains collide head-on in Bavaria, Germany

Two Meridian passenger trains collided head-on near the town of Bad Aibling in Bavaria, Germany. One train reportedly derailed as a result of the collision. Police report multiple injured and at least 9 dead.

Local police spokesman Jürgen Thalmeier told Rosenheim24 that "several people have been killed in the crash." Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that according to police about 150 people have been injured, of them 55 seriously. A police source said that nine people have been confirmed dead.

Rescue works are now completed at the site.

Two people are still missing, RIA Novosti reported, citing local police official Robert Kopp.

One of the train drivers is among the dead, a police source told RIA Novosti.

“This is the biggest accident we have had in years in this region and we have many emergency doctors, ambulances and helicopters on the scene,'' police spokesman Stefan Sonntag told The Associated Press.

Police, firefighters and other rescue workers were on the scene three minutes after the crash, Germany's Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure Alexander Dobrindt told a press-conference later on Tuesday.

Rescue teams had to work in harsh conditions, the minister said, adding that many had to work in shifts and some required psychological counseling following what they had to deal with.

The site of the crash is difficult to access, which made rescue efforts more complex. Victims of the crash who were in the worst condition had to be transported closer to water first, before being taken on board helicopters.

At 8:45 a.m. CET, police tweeted that a rescue operation was in full swing, with over 100 emergency service vehicles in operation, The Local reports. 

Police spokesman Jürgen Thalmeier said the trains collided between the local railway stations of Holzkirchen and Rosenheim. The incident occurred at about 7 a.m. local time (6:00 GMT). Bad Aibling is 60 kilometers southwest of Munich.

Drivers of both trains hadn't had visual contact and didn't see the other vehicle approaching until the very last moment, Dobrindt told journalists, saying that both trains were traveling at a high speed of up to 100 km per hour (62 miles per hour) allowed on this part of the railway. There was no time to brake, the official said.

One of the trains was traveling with a delay, the media was told.

A system designed to automatically apply emergency brakes on trains if they end up on the same track was in place, the transport minister said. It was introduced across Germany after a fatal 2011 train collision.

"These past years I was convinced that such tragedies won't be possible," Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said at the press-conference, adding that the government has invested a lot of money so that "two trains shouldn't be on the same track at the same time."

The investigation is ongoing, officials said, calling for any speculation to be avoided. They said that as of now it is difficult to establish whether human error or a technical malfunction caused the crash.

There were three black boxes on the trains, the transport minister said. Two of them have been already retrieved, while one more is somewhere deep in the wreckage.

All local ambulance vehicles have been dispatched to the crash site. Nordbauyerischer Kurier reports that eight medical helicopters have been spotted in a nearby field. “I've never in my life seen so many ambulances,” a BR24 reporter said from the scene of the crash.

Helicopters from Austrian emergency services have reportedly been dispatched to the crash site in neighboring Germany.

It is believed that due to Bavaria's Fasching carnival being celebrated this week, the trains could have been carrying fewer passengers than usual.