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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 June, 2003, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Train crash kills 19 in Spain
Wrecked trains
The trains ploughed into each other and caught fire
At least 19 people have been killed and about 40 injured in a head-on train collision in Spain, Miguel Corsini, the chairman of Spain's state railway company Renfe said.

Mr Corsini said he could not rule out the possibility that the death toll would increase further as a number of other passengers are still missing, feared dead.

More bodies are expected to be found as rescuers pick their way through the burnt-out carriages.

The crash, which happened when a high-speed passenger train collided head-on with a freight train and burst into flames, has been blamed on human error by rail officials.

There was a tremendous fire, everybody was screaming
Passenger Nieto Pinto

The passenger train, with about 90 people on board had been travelling from the capital, Madrid, to the south-eastern city of Cartagena.

The accident happened on a single-track stretch of line near Chinchilla in the Albacete province, at 2140 local time (1940 GMT) on Tuesday.

Human error

The state railway company, Renfe, said the passenger train was given permission to leave Chinchilla station, on to the single-line track and into the path of the oncoming freight train.

"We believe it was due to a human error as the signalling system was working perfectly," Mr Corsini said.

The confirmed dead included 14 passengers and five railroad employees and of the 40 people injured eight are still in hospital.

 Map showing train route

Three large cranes have been erected either side of the trains to help with the removal of wreckage and forensic experts are sifting through the debris.

DNA tests have been conducted on relatives to help with identification process because many of the victims were seriously burnt.

The impact was so great that the engine of the freight train catapulted over the top of the passenger train, the first carriage of which was totally destroyed by fire.

"I thought we were all going to die. We saw that the first cars were on fire. It was horrible", a passenger on the train, Mercedes, told Spanish radio Cadena Ser.

"We heard screams, but we couldn't do anything."

Lucky escape

Another passenger, Nieto Pinto, said she was in the toilet when the crash happened.

Prime Minister Aznar at crash scene
Prime Minister Aznar joined emergency workers at the scene

"I reeled from side to side. When I tried to get out to find my husband there was a tremendous fire, everybody was screaming," she told National Radio.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has visited the crash site as has Transport Minister Francisco Alvarez-Cascos.

Renfe has denied reports that the freight train was carrying toxic chemicals at the time of the crash.

The crash was the latest in a string of Spanish rail accidents this year.

Two people were killed and 27 injured in the same area in January, when a train derailed.

The BBC's Rebecca Pearce
"It is not yet known what caused the crash"

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