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Friday, 31 January, 2003, 11:17 GMT
Inquiry into Sydney train tragedy
A section of one of the carriages at the crash site
The train apparently slammed straight into the rockface
An investigation has begun into the derailment of a train south of the Australian city of Sydney, which killed nine people and seriously injured more than 20.

All four carriages of the Friday morning rush-hour train came off the track in a steep ravine near the village of Waterfall, 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the city.
There was a loud bang and we went over [and] my carriage lay on its side

Passenger Nonee Walsh

There has been some speculation that the tracks may have buckled in blistering temperatures of up to 45C.

However several other trains had safely used the route before the crash.

Forensic recreation

A retired judge will head the inquiry into what is Australia's worst rail accident for a quarter of a century.

A rescue helicopter arrives at the scene of the crash
Helicopters brought medical staff and took injured to hospital
A black box - similar to the flight recorders on aircraft - has been recovered from the scene and will undergo analysis.

The train wreckage is expected to be taken to a rail yard in Sydney on Saturday where the crash site will be recreated for forensic inspection.

Nonee Walsh, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporter who was a passenger, said the train appeared to accelerate just before derailing.

"It appeared to hit a corner. There was a loud bang and we went over [and] my carriage lay on its side."

The front carriage crumpled after slamming into a rockface and the other double-decker carriages were dragged along the sandstone wall.

'War scene'

Emergency workers smashed train windows with rocks to try to release trapped survivors from the wreckage and helicopters ferried about 40 injured passengers to hospital.

"The scene can be only described similar to what we've seen in recent war movies... where there are bodies just strewn around the scene," said rescue worker Stephen Leahy.

Australia's worst rail disaster occurred at Granville the west of Sydney in January 1977 when 83 people were killed when a packed peak-hour train derailed and crashed into a concrete bridge.

In 1999, seven people were killed and 51 injured when a commuter train slammed into the back of another passenger train at Glenbrook, 55km (34 miles) west of Sydney.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"Some here are already blaming the weather for this accident"
The BBC's Phil Mercer
"This was a very crowded commuter train"
See also:

31 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
02 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
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