A train derailment in the Tuscan seaside resort of Viareggio has killed at least 15 people, some of them incinerated in their homes, the Telegraph, CNN and other European wires are reporting. Nearly 40 people were injured, many of them seriously burnt, as flames engulfed houses and the force of the explosion caused at least two buildings to collapse into rubble.
The accident happened at 11:45 p.m. local time when a wagon in a 14-carriage train traveling from La Spezia to Pisa and transporting liquefied petroleum gas came off the rails in the coastal town. The rear of the train plowed into houses next to Viareggio's train station, setting fire to a vast area. One of the buildings was thought to have had 18 people inside, prompting fears that the death toll would rise.
Hundreds of firemen from across the region were rushed to the area to help with the rescue operation and ensure remaining tankers do not catch fire. They dug through the rubble of collapsed or burnt homes looking for casualties, while others wearing nuclear, biological and chemical threats fought to contain the blaze.
An estimated 1,000 people were evacuated from the area because of the danger of more explosions, said Luca Lunardini, the town's mayor. At least one child was among the victims who were killed in their homes by the explosion. Others survived the fireball but died on their way to hospital from severe burns. The ANSA news agency reported that three children were pulled alive from the rubble of their collapsed home shortly before dawn.
The train's two engineers were only lightly injured and were questioned in hospital. They said they felt an impact when they were about 650 feet outside the station, shortly before the rear of the train flew off the tracks. Officials said the accident might have been caused by damage to the tracks or by a problem with the train's braking system.