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James Helm reports for BBC News
"The shocked and the injured helped each other to safety"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 11:51 GMT
Twelve feared dead in Australia crash
The trains crashed on one of Sydney's busiest commuter lines The trains crashed on one of Sydney's busiest commuter lines

By Phil Mercer in Sydney

As many as 12 passengers may have been killed in a collision between two trains at the base of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, officials have said.

"There are going to be maybe 10 or 12 families tonight who will very sad, " New South Wales Premier Bob Carr said.

Wayne Geddes, a spokesman for New South Wales State Rail, said six people had so far been confirmed dead and that the death toll was expected to rise.

By early evening, the bodies of two women had been recovered from the wreckage and authorities were trying to recover more victims.

Fifty-one people are reported seriously injured, with dozens requiring hospital treatment. The site of the crash has been declared a disaster area.

The whole thing just caved in. Then everyone started panicking
Passenger Kate Klim
The crash happened at just after 0830 local time (2230GMT) during the Thursday morning rush hour.

A packed commuter inter-city service from Lithgow with 1,000 people on board hit the back of a stationary Indian Pacific tourist train, which was on its twice-weekly run from Perth and Adelaide via Broken Hill.

Rail authorities said the commuter train may have been traveling at up to 80 kmh (50 mph) when it crashed near Glenbrook, a small town 55km (35 miles) west of Sydney.

All of the bodies so far recovered were in the first carriage of the commuter train.

'Absolute carnage'

Survivors spoke of their horror as the carriages were crushed around them.

"It was carnage - absolute carnage," said one man.

A fellow woman passenger said: "I saw a man's arm covered in blood hanging out of a window as I tried to climb out."

Another commuter Bill Della Bosca was also on board the train travelling from Lithgow in the Blue Mountains to Sydney.

He described the moment of impact: "The people who were standing just went straight though the air ... a man standing next to my seat ended about five yards from me."
The collision occurred near a bend in the track The collision happened near a bend in the track
Spokesman Wayne Geddes said the rail company did not know what had caused the accident.

A passenger on the Indian Pacific train, Irene Barnes, said that a few minutes before she felt the impact passengers were told over the public address system that the train would be delayed because of a signal failure.

State rail authorities would not comment on that, saying possible signal faults would be part of an investigation.

'Get down'

One passenger, 21-year-old Kate Klim, was sitting in the front carriage of the intercity train when the crash happened.

"It was going along fine then suddenly the driver runs down the stairs and just goes 'get down everybody'," she said.

The driver of the Lithgow to Sydney train may have helped save lives by trying to warn passengers, moments before impact.

Spokesman Wayne Geddes says he reacted quickly when he rounded a bend and saw the Indian Pacific was not moving at the expected speed.

"What he effectively did was jump out of his seat which activates the emergency braking system," he said.

"He then ran back into the carriage and shouted a warning to his passengers: 'Brace yourselves - there's about to be a collision'."

An investigation is already under way.

New South Wales Supreme Court judge Peter McInerney has been chosen to conduct an independent judicial inquiry.

The New South Wales state government says it wants the report delivered as soon as possible.

It is expected the Western rail line may be closed for as long as 24 hours

Tourist attraction

The Indian Pacific links Australia's east and west coasts is popular with international holidaymakers and backpackers.

There were 159 passengers on board the Indian Pacific train.

The Great Southern Railway company, which operates the service, says it is checking passenger lists to see if any of the dead or injured were from overseas.

The Red Cross has made an emergency appeal for blood donors to come forward to make sure there are adequate supplies to treat those involved in the Blue Mountains train crash.

Australia's worst rail disaster happened in 1977, when a crowded commuter train derailed and struck the supporting pillars of a road bridge, which collapsed. Eighty-three people were killed and 200 injured.

Emergency telephone numbers

The New South Wales State Rail has released numbers of telephone hotlines for people worried about friends or relatives.

From outside Australia, the number is (612) 9379 1888.

From within Australia, there are two freephone numbers to use: the New South Wales police on 1800 805 156, and CityRail on 1800 632 500.

From within Australia, Indian Pacific can be reached on 132 147.
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